As Harry Potter is anxiously awaiting his summer to be over, so he can return for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he receives a visit from a mysterious little house-elf named Dobby. Dobby is adamant that Harry's life is in danger and he must not return to Hogwarts. Since Hogwarts is the only place Harry has ever felt truly at home, he is equally adamant that he must go back. Upon his return though, many mystifying things begin to happen. Harry can hear a disembodied voice that no one else can, Muggle-born students are turning up petrified, and a cryptic message saying that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened appears on a wall. Not to mention, it seems that someone may be out to kill Harry too. Then a strange old diary appears, drawing Harry even deeper into the mystery of the Chamber. Harry, Ron and Hermione will be taken on a hair-raising, roller-coaster ride of adventure, danger and intrigue, as they try to figure out who opened the Chamber of Secrets and how, why students are being attacked, and who the heir of Slytherin really is.
This was my second reading of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and while I normally allow more time to pass between re-reads of favorite books, it was still a fun story. I also had recently re-watched the movie version which made it even fresher in my mind, but I discovered that by watching the movie first and then reading the book, I got a fascinating look inside the mind of a screen-writer. While I had always liked the Harry Potter movies I've seen so far, I didn't like them nearly as well as the books. By doing things this way, I gained a whole new appreciation for the movies, and for how difficult it must be for a writer to translate a book to the screen. I know this is a bit of a caveat from my book review, but I thought it worth mentioning for those who are critics of the movies like I have been in the past. Now on to my thoughts about the book.
As always, I absolutely love the characters and how complex and well-written they are. I'm not sure that there could be three better and closer friends that Harry, Ron, and Hermione. In my opinion, they epitomize the true meaning of friendship. I only previously made it through book #3 of the series, but I have a suspicion that Ron and Hermione may someday become more than friends. I noticed throughout this book that Ron has a tendency to frequently be Hermione's defender, but J. K. Rowling has a way of presenting it in a very subtle way. I can't help but like the Weasley family. The author has taken care to give each one their own individual personality, but all are completely lovable in their own way. Also they may not be wealthy, but they're never lacking in warmth and generosity. Additionally, I find Arthur Weasley's fascination with all things Muggle to be charming and funny. Professor Dumbledore, with his gentle, knowing ways, continues to be one of my favorite characters from the series. Dobby, the house-elf, was a new addition in this book, and I found him to be rather cute. What I really liked about him was that his heart was always in the right place even if his methods were somewhat questionable. Two other new characters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets who I found to be extremely interesting were Professor Lockhart and Colin Creevy. Both seem to be satirical representations of the madness of fame. Colin didn't play a huge part, but he did make an impression on me in that he is symbolic of the stereotypical crazed fan or paparazzi who just can't seem to leave Harry alone. Gilderoy Lockhart is a character I loved to hate right from the beginning. He is someone who has let fame go to his head in a completely different way. Lockhart is a puffed-up peacock of a celebrity, who in reality, is completely incompetent, but still has lots of people, particularly females, completely snowed by his vacuous charm. I loved how Harry and Ron saw through Lockhart right from the start, and I thought he ended up getting a very just punishment for his conceit.
Aside from the wonderful characters, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had some great scenes that were a lot of fun to read. Harry and Ron's enchanted car ride to Hogwarts was hilarious especially when they fell on the Whomping Willow. There was an incredibly funny part from the wizard's duel which had me laughing out loud but that sadly never made it into the movie. I thought it was rather amusing having Hermione being the one talking Harry and Ron into breaking school rules to find out who opened the Chamber of Secrets. Harry's mercifulness to Dobby was very touching too. I also loved the quote from Dumbledore: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." which I found to be as enlightened as any great philosopher. Of course, these are just the little things about the story which caught my attention and doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all the wonderful action, adventure and heroism that is such an inherent part of this series. In addition, I can say that the Harry Potter books always leave me with a deep sense of contentment at the end. It is very rare when I cannot quite figure out the why of things. Perhaps it is the emotional nature of the final scenes or perhaps it is the relief and satisfaction that evil has once again been defeated (at least for now), but whatever it is, I always seem to wind up teary-eyed when I finish them.
There are so many more things that I'm anxiously waiting to find out as I continue reading the series. I love how Dumbledore always seems to know exactly what's going on, and it makes me wonder if he truly is the greatest wizard in the world. I'm dying to know why Hogwarts runs through so many Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. I also wonder at all the similarities between Harry and Voldemort. At least one of the similarities was explained by Dumbledore, and perhaps these two are simply meant to be the yin and yang of the wizarding world, but I have a feeling that it is quite possibly something more profound. All in all, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was another fabulous addition to the series, and I am eagerly looking forward to continuing it to find out the answers to these and many other questions.
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