With the sad news this week of the passing of Alan Rickman, I look back on my childhood, which was immersed in the phenomenon that was (and still is) Harry Potter. The books – as well as the films – were part of many children’s lives growing up in the 2000s and Alan Rickman, with his undeniably distinct voice took us through the journey as Snape. The man we all feared and loathed until those heart wrenching moments in the seventh book when Rowling revealed one of the biggest mysteries of the Harry Potter series.
When looking at how Harry Potter was received when it first came out, there is a stark difference between how a ten-year-old may read the series, to the way in which I lovingly re-read the seven books whenever I have a spare moment in the holidays. Rowling’s mastery is her ability to create a paradox of a fantastical world of magic, and a familiar, reachable set of characters. These stories came alive to us as young readers, but you can never fully grasp their concepts until maturity. Indeed, the books grew up with their readers. By the time I read the seventh book, the themes and ideas expressed were far beyond those imagined when reading The Philosopher’s Stone. When re-reading the latter books, particularly the fourth to seventh, it seems very different to how one may have perceived them at a younger age. Each character, now firmly embedded in our memories, has a stronger place in the novel and their purpose becomes more clear. It may be fiction and aimed at children, but there’s darkness in Harry Potter that isn’t always fully acknowledged. And it’s this – along with the long lasting themes of love and friendship – that help make these books timeless.
The seventh book is one that has many complex twists and turns that only become apparent at a later stage of maturity, with new parts highlighted. It’s times like these where I’m reminded of how great it is to read for pleasure. But reading something again may seem futile: why read a book twice? My answer to this is read a book as many times as you can, as your response to them changes as you change. New experiences and perspectives can allow a book to become something completely new. Age doesn’t purely wear the cover of a book, but it can also change the way we read it. This can be for better or for worse: you may love a book a second time or despise it. This idea can apply to children’s fiction like Harry Potter or to the great canonical works like Dickens or Austen. Great Expectations in secondary school was a real struggle, yet on a more mature reading, the story’s worth and depth became apparent. Harry Potter is a set of books that will be forever read and cherished, and like these works, Alan Rickman and his commendable work will be remembered admirably and his presence greatly missed by his fans.