Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not my favourite book in the series. This may be because I don’t feel it has as much of a compelling and overarching mystery that makes you want to keep reading, at least not to the same degree that some of the other books do. Like in The Chamber of Secrets, you’re wondering, “Who has opened the Chamber of Secrets? Who is the heir of Slytherin? Why do students keep getting petrified?” And in The Goblet of Fire, it’s all about “Who put Harry’s name into the Goblet of Fire and why? What will the next task be?” etc. In some ways, OotP seems like a book that is setting up for the rest of the series: the political environment, the climax, how neither Harry nor Voldemort “can live while the other survives” and the implications of that. That said, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. It started out slow but picked up somewhere around the middle and became more interesting, and I flew through the last 200 pages or so with much more enthusiasm.
There were several scenes I had forgotten about, perhaps because they’re not in the movie and I haven’t read this book in quite a while. One such scene was when Firenze the centaur teaches Divination in a classroom enchanted to look like the Forest. The students stretched out on their backs and looked at the sky and the stars. It’s just a cool little scene, and I bet it would’ve looked cool if it had been in the movie. Ah, what I wouldn’t give for a big, long, detailed TV mini-series of all the books!
Another scene is one where Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys are at St. Mungo’s. They run into someone from several books back: Professor Lockhart! It was actually enjoyable reading about Lockhart at St. Mungo’s; he wasn’t as insufferable as before. He injected a bit of humour into a scene that was sadder and darker: the gang had “met” Neville’s parents and found out what had happened to them. Everyone is silent after, and then Lockhart, thinking they wanted autographs and angry at being ignored/forgotten, shouts, “Look, I didn’t learn joined-up writing for nothing, you know!”
One thing that struck me is that the students actually do homework, and lots of it! In books it often seems like the characters attend high school but rarely have homework to do or tests to study for and most of their time outside of class is free for whatever they want. In OotP, they’re swamped with homework the first week, and Harry gets further behind because of detention with Umbridge taking up all his evenings. Near the end of the year, everybody’s studying for their OWLs, panicking, quizzing each other, comparing the number of hours they spent studying, discussing what answers they wrote after the exam (much to Ron’s annoyance). They spend the whole day in exams and then return to their common rooms and spend the night studying for the next one. I don’t know, it may seem like something small or silly, but I just feel like it really captures the feeling of being overloaded with work from all your classes, how easy it is to get behind and feel like you’ll never get back to a clean slate without sacrificing a week of sleep and meals, and the stress of exams. Of course, Rowling also makes it interesting and I’d rather read about Charms homework and Transfiguration exams than Math and Biology in a contemporary realistic novel.
Near the end, when they’ve gone to the Department of Mysteries but before they’ve found the room with the prophecies, there’s a dark circular room with a bunch of doors that all look the same. The walls shift and once you’ve closed a door, you don’t know which you came in through and which ones you have and haven’t checked. This reminded me a little bit of Catching Fire and the arena, and how, just when Katniss et al started to figure out the clock and what was in each wedge, Plutarch spins the cornucopia and confuses things. Also, this extended bit in the Department of Mysteries would’ve also been cool to see in the movie!
Other Random Thoughts:
- A single tear falling down Dumbledore’s cheek after telling Harry about the prophecy, what it means, and then confessing that’s why he didn’t make Harry prefect, because he already had enough to deal with 😦 It was interesting, and a little disconcerting, to see Dumbledore show emotion in this manner. Usually he appears calm in the face of uncertainty or danger, with his serene expression and twinkling eyes; he makes you feel like everything will be okay, everything will work out, nothing is gone or lost for good, nothing is beyond hope.
- It was interesting how the veiled archway seemed to have an enchantment that lured people closer.
- How ironic and tragic that the whole reason Harry went to the Department of Mysteries was to save Sirius, but that’s what contributed to Sirius’s death. If Harry hadn’t gone, then Sirius and the rest of the Order wouldn’t have had to come, and Sirius wouldn’t have gotten hit by a curse from Bellatrix and fallen into the veiled archway. Way to pile on the guilt and trauma for Harry.
- There’s a scene in the movie adaptation where Umbridge is being carried off by the centaurs, and she goes, “Potter, please, tell them I mean no harm!” and Harry says, “Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies.” Savage Harry! I really thought this exchange was in the book as well, but apparently it’s not.
“Yes – yes, good point, Petunia! What were you doing under our window, boy?”
“Listening to the news,” said Harry in a resigned voice.
His aunt and uncle exchanged looks of outrage.
“Listening to the news! Again?”
“Well, it changes every day, you see,” said Harry.
“Did you like question ten, Moony?” asked Sirius as they emerged into the Entrance Hall.
“Loved it,” said Lupin briskly. “Give five signs that identify the werewolf. Excellent question.”
“D’you think you managed to get all the signs?” said James in tones of mock concern.
“Think I did,” said Lupin seriously, as they joined the crowd thronging around the front doors eager to get out into the sunlit grounds. “One: he’s sitting on my chair. Two: he’s wearing my clothes. Three: his name’s Remus Lupin.”
“I’m terribly sorry to have to contradict you, Minerva, but as you will see from my note, Harry has been achieving very poor results in his classes with me – ”
“I should have made my meaning plainer,” said Professor McGonagall, turning at last to look Umbridge directly in the eyes. “He has achieved high marks in all Defence Against the Dark Arts tests set by a competent teacher.”
+ “Are you quite sure you wouldn’t like a cough drop, Dolores?”
“Well, we were always going to fail that one,” said Ron gloomily as they ascended the marble staircase. He had just made Harry feel rather better by telling him how he had told the examiner in detail about the ugly man with a wart on his nose in his crystal ball, only to look up and realise he had been describing his examiner’s reflection.
“By all means continue destroying my possessions,” said Dumbledore serenely. “I daresay I have too many.”
” – Yeah, if we get any hint that Potter’s been mistreated in any way, you’ll have us to answer to,” said Moody.
Uncle Vernon swelled ominously. His sense of outrage seemed to outweigh even his fear of this bunch of oddballs.
“Are you threatening me, sir?” he said, so loudly that passers-by actually turned to stare.
“Yes, I am,” said Mad-Eye, who seemed rather pleased that Uncle Vernon had grasped this fact so quickly.
“And do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated?” barked Uncle Vernon.
“Well …” said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolting magical eye. Uncle Vernon leapt backwards in horror and collided painfully with a luggage trolley. “Yes, I’d have to say you do, Dursley.”
Read my thoughts on The Goblet of Fire here.