I was thirteen when the first Harry Potter book came out in 1997. I remember there was a bit of a fuss about it, but I dismissed it as a children’s book. I wasn’t the coolest of thirteen year olds, but I was still at that age when you’re desperate to appear a bit more grown-up. A book about an eleven year old wizard didn’t appeal.
Anyway, the whole Harry Potter juggernaut passed me by completely. I wasn’t old enough to understand why grown-ups would want to read it.
But now I’m in my thirties, I understand. I’ve fallen hard for all things Harry Potter.
My son was keen to try reading the first book, and I thought I’d read it first to make sure it wasn’t too scary. I didn’t expect to love it, but I did.
Weirdly, the thing that attracts me is the thing that put me off the books in the first place: the childishness. It’s a combination of magic, sparkle and escapism.
This is a time of responsibility: children, mortgages, bills. I read for pleasure, and I don’t like my books to be that challenging. I like a good story, with undemanding prose. I don’t always want realism. I’d rather read about magic wands than washing up.
I like the fact that my son and I can enjoy them together. He’s nearly eight and I’m thirty two. We’re enjoying the same thing, but probably noticing different things. For him it’s exciting, new and a bit scary at times. For me it’s comfortingly formulaic, but still mildly gripping. We can chat about it as equals which is great. Plus, I get to view things though a child’s eyes rather than my own cynical pair.
It also allows me to indulge my inner child. Despite ignoring it for a while, it’s still there and likes things that are a bit naff and glittery. And now I’m in my thirties I don’t feel remotely embarrassed by my Harry Potter socks.
I’m up to book five, and he’s just started book six. They’re getting a bit darker, which is challenging. I think we might have to have a little break soon, and wait till he’s a little older before we finish the series (he may take a little convincing about this). But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Are you a Harry Potter fan, or are you yet to be converted?