The Stench of Success - HP and the Deathly Hollows

Last week, I took it upon myself to read the seventh and final installment of Harry Potter. It's been sat on my shelf, since I bought it. A guilty buy, spurred on by the hype of the release and peer pressure. I kept looking at it and have really not been able to face it. I'm not sure why I needed to read it last week, I just did. I picked it up and waded through it during the course of an evening.

If it were a report written for a developing country, I would say it was very successful; such reports are judged on their ability to kill local cockroaches when dropped from table height. As a work of fiction aimed for children and their parents, I have to say I was less impressed. Half-way through the first chapter I felt myself reaching for a red pen. I found myself wanting to annote my copy with: why is this here? Overwritten. Does not move the story forward. Show, don't tell. With a good editor, she could have had a much better read, using half the space. It's so disappointing. Rowling didn't know who she was writing for, which is a real shame. This confusion has led to her books becoming far more turgid reads from Goblet of Fire through to the Deathly Hallows.

The elements which made the books such good fun in the beginning, the sharp, witty writing have disappeared. I was left with the feeling that she was killing off people for the shock value, rather than to heighten the risk and realism. Realistically speaking, the wedding fiasco which took up far too many pages, was completely unnecessary. It didn't lead to us learning anything really new about the characters or move the story forward in an original or outstanding way. Yes, it did hint to a revelation about Dumbledore...but at what a cost.

The revelation about Snape at the end, which was by far the most interesting and enjoyable part of the whole bloody book, was over in a matter of pages. He died almost as a footnote. The thing which kept me wading through the book was Harry's discovery that Dumbledore was a mere human being was interesting, but I'd have loved to have seen more of Snape (and not just because Alan Rickman is a thinking woman's crumpet).

There. Got that off my chest.

I'm sure there will be people who will rightly say 'who are you to be critical of this successful writer?' and 'you're just jealous'. To you I say, success is not a good enough excuse for sloppy writing. I rest easy with the fact that I'm not going to be JK Rowling, earning however many millions per print run. I'm not sure I'd like to be. Her current court case over her rights over the Harry Potter empire is just crass and cringeworthy.

I think part of the reason Rowling's voice has changed so much since the Philosopher's Stone, is that she has grown into her craft. The true test of her success as an author will be what she writes next. Though, even if she writes a complete dud, she's amassed enough wealth to be comfortable for the rest of her life, for it not to matter one whit.


  1. Lorena3:08 pm

    I couldn't agree more with you. The last Potter books have left me with a foul aftertaste. Specially the last one (Deathly Hallows). Most deaths were unnecessary and poorly written. As you previously said it, it was obvious she did it for shock-value. Snape's part was so limited, it was painful! And no, I am not saying this because I am an Alan Rickman fervent admirer, I am saying that for one of the most interesting and important characters in the saga, she just brushed him off, like a fly. And yes, I said important because Jo herself said he along with Dumbledore were two of the most important characters, leaving aside the golden trio, of course. There, I got that out of my chest too! Thanks I feel a lot better now. Btw, I also believe that Rowling's lawsuit is also a pitiful thing. Enjoyed your article a lot! Cheers!

  2. I've not read any of them. Its so far off my radar that I thought this was going to be a post about brown sauce!

  3. lorena ~ welcome, I'm glad you've come to protect me against the wave of protest I'm sure will wash over us in a moment.

    sanddancer ~ perhaps I should have thought of a better title? Sorry to have misled you. Does it come under the Trade Descriptions Act?

  4. sanddancer - me too! I was thinking there was going to be some nasty HP incident...

    I've not read this one - I gave up after number 5 and although 6 has been sitting on the bedside table for best part of 18 months now, I can't bear to pick it up

  5. I have to say, I have read the books and do re-read them because they do a reasonable escape job, however I couldn't agree more about HP7. I felt there was alot of filling and the bits that should have been taken gradually were rushed. As for Alan Rickman. What women of taste we are.

  6. Having read the entire series (and generally enjoyed them) I do have to say that the last one isn't as good as the rest...To be fair though, I didn't find it as turgid as you clearly did...

    The Court Action does seem to be something of a storm in a teacup - should have been settled with handbags at ten paces instead of pointless litigation...

    Presumably Rowling was happy enough with the publicity generated by the lexicon when she was on her way up, but, having made it big-time, she now can't stand the thought of somebody else making a modest bob or two with it...stinks a bit...

  7. cogidubnus ~ I'm not disputing her ability to make characters and situations that draw the readers's just...sloppy writing in her later books.

    I think that's the crux of the matter, she created these characters with so much potential and then chose the crap route. Lots of words, don't mean a better reading experience.

    As to her court case, laughable really, especially since she gave it an award and used it herself. She's painting herself a money-grabbing wench that's for sure.

  8. The 'it' used previously refers to the website which the encyclopedia will be based upon.

    Brain not keeping up with the typing fingers...again.

  9. Alan Rickman is very lovely. A very fine example of God's creation worthy of admiring.

    I loved the world JKR created in Harry Potter (I find it amusing that I know the rules of quidditch which isn't even a real game) but agree the shorter books were better.


  10. Welcome Annedroid. Alan Rickman - mmmm....


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