25 January 2013

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Readlong Part One

It's the first installment of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the Harry Potter Readalong, hosted by Awesome Alice over at Reading Rambo (note: she doesn't go by that name, but it's how I think of her, so if you don't already follow her blog, you should do so now. Unless you just don't appreciate things like humor, Wilkie Collins, book reviews, opera, secret lesbian relationships, or nonsequiturs. In which case I'm not sure how I feel about your reading my blog. Go away.)

CoS is my least favorite book in the series, so I might as well put that out there.  I don't love PS/SS, but at least it does provide our introduction to this wonderful world of witches & wizards. CoS is a slower read and filled with characters who are like salt in a dessert: a judicial amount of it makes the dessert amazing but use it heavy-handedly, it is no longer dessert; it is a disaster. I'm looking at you, Dobby and Gilderoy Lockhart. But more about them when they actually appear...

Chapter One, p. 10: If people were at all thinking that the Dursleys, while not pleasant, weren't outright abusive, this should put them firmly in the other camp. Petunia "aimed a heavy blow at his [Harry's] head with a soapy frying pan."

Chapter Two: all of it.  Here is Dobby.  It's true that I come to care for Dobby over the course of the series. I regularly cry in Book Seven (YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN). But for this book he is the Jar-Jar Binks of the book.  That is, a loathsome and pathetic creature inserted into this world for the express purpose of annoying me. I think Harry feels the same way at first, too:

Chapter Three, p. 32. Molly is described as looking like a saber-toothed tiger.  Just a little foreshadowing of her moment of glory in book 7.

Chapter 3, p. 33.  CAPS-LOCK Molly is upset because she didn't know where her boys were and they might have been dead somewhere.  Ummm, I guess she forgot to look at her clock, which tells her where all of her family are at any given time?  Or at least tells her that they're not in Mortal Peril? This is just annoying.  But because Harry hasn't seen the clock yet, and Harry is our filter, she can't look in it to learn that her children are alive, just up to mischief. Whatevs.

Chapter 3, p. 39. I rather like Arthur Weasley, but he is kind of a shabby excuse for a parent when it comes to discipline or standing up to his wife. If he had more backbone, Molly would come across as less of a harpy. I think he's a good role model for his children, in that he's kind and curious and hard-working and good-hearted and pro-muggle, but he breaks as many wizarding rules as Lucius Malfoy and doesn't see that he should be held to the same laws as everyone else.  Granted, Arthur just wants to tinker with muggle stuff and Lucius is up to nefarious things, BUT the laws are there for everybody. He should work to change the laws, not just blithely break them with no thought to the consequences. But how can you not love this:

Chapter Four, pp. 49-52. Harry lands in Nocturne Knockturn Alley and sees artifacts that will later chance the course of the series: the withered Hand of Glory, the opal necklace, and the vanishing cabinet. It's lucky that he read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when he was a child, where he learned it is very silly to completely shut oneself in a wardrobe, or else the Vanishing Cabinet would have sent him somewhere.  Whew.

Draco really is an asswipe in this book, but with a father like that, who can blame him?  And it's not like Lucius is berating Draco for not doing well in school, which I'd be fine with (with a nod to Sarah at Sarah Says Read).  It's that he's not first in his class over that mudblood Granger, which is a thoroughly different point.  Maybe I've been reading too much fanfiction, but Draco is really, really smart in the books and could possibly have been top in the class if it weren't for Hermione.  He *did* say he wouldn't mind being in Ravenclaw after all; he earned an Outstanding on his potions O.W.L.s; and he was clever enough to identify and repair the Vanishing Cabinets in HBP. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Ron feels downtrodden because his brothers overshadow him, but even without older siblings, Draco will never live up to his father's expectations.

Chapter 4, p. 63. Lucius's eyes are "glittering with malice" when he slips the diary in Ginny's book bag. What I want to know is this: how much does Lucius know about the diary?  Does he realize it's a horcrux?  He must know something--because later Draco knows that "Enemies of the Heir" means Enemies of the Heir of Slytherin. And later in GoF we learn that Voldemort had previously told his Death Eaters that he had taken steps toward immortality.  But I somehow think that if Lucius knew he was unleashing a little bit of Voldie's soul, not to mention unleashing a basilisk in the same school where his only son was a student, he might have done something else.

Chapter Five: Oh. My. God. These boys do the stupidest things when Hermione isn't there to stop them.  How can they *possibly* think that stealing the car and flying it to Hogwarts would be a good idea?  And can a train not change direction significantly enough in 30 MINUTES that they can just dip down from the clouds and find it?  That's not just stupid, it's STOOPID.

Chapter 5, p. 81. JKR must be having us on, because Snape "looked as though Christmas had been canceled," when we all know he was the one who wanted to cancel it in the first place:

Ugh, this is taking too long. I'm spending WAY more time searching for GIFs than I am writing this here post. Moving on...because this book is ultimately skimmable...

Gilderoy Lockhart, blah, blah, blah.

If that damned basilisk is so hungry, why doesn't it ever stick around to kill somebody and eat it?  Terribly unlucky for it that everything just gets petrified instead. Blah, blah, blah.

For JKR's convenience, Hermione cannot recall where she read about the Chamber of Secrets. This, despite her annoyingly photographic memory over the course of the entire series. I bought it when Harry couldn't remember where he'd read about  Nicholas Flamel, but here I call shenanigans on the author:

Ginny is upset about Mrs. Norris's being petrified because she likes cats--yup, that's why she's upset all right. Blah, blah, blah.

Harry is stupid and doesn't the truth to an adult about hearing voices because not trusting adults is a trope in this series, blah, blah, blah.

I'm waiting for the second half of this book because the first half leaves me feeling like Doppelganger Willow from Buffy:
Bored Now...Whomp!
How 'bout y'all?


  1. The Dursleys are SO AWFUL here. First throwing a frying pan at Harry then holding him prisoner. That is crazy level of abuse.

    UGH Dobby. Just so annoying. I know the feels for him later but right now, just stop it.

    Dammit could everyone stop making me feel bad for Draco? At least until a later book.

    Gilderoy is the best and I heart him but a lot of that love does come from Branagh's performance and I can't separate the two.

    1. Oh, you'll be bleeding green by the time I'm through. And that's a promise!

      re: Gilderoy...I actually love Brannagh in that role, but Lockhart the book-character is so awful that even remembering the movie doesn't seem to help. Don't know why that's the case!

  2. It always seemed to me that Molly was more worried about them getting caught with the car (and thus getting their Dad in trouble) than about their safety, which always bothered me until you just reminded me about the clock so of course she knew they were okay and it's totally reasonable to go straight to anger!

    Also, I never thought of how Harry could have accidentally ended up in Hogwarts when he got inside that cabinet! LOL!

    I absolutely agree about Draco and his skills. What is bizarre is that he worships his dad and talks about him ALL the time (oh my god, Christmas Polyjuice scene is so annoying). He will clearly grow up to resent the man. I'd feel bad for him if he wasn't such an ass.

    Not only does the basilisk never actually eat anybody, but HOW is he attacking them?? It's supposedly getting around through the pipes but only one victim is found near a bathroom. Colin is found on the stairs, for crying out loud! Unless Hogwarts plumbing is VERY unusual (and unsanitary), I find it very hard to believe that nobody would have noticed it. Damn, I wish I'd remembered to put this in my own post.

    1. "Unless Hogwarts plumbing is VERY unusual (and unsanitary),"

      OKay, I just snorted wine over that, which burns a little. Hey, do NOT judge me. It's supposed to be my day off but I have a ton of work to do from home so wine is easing my pain.

    2. I also started laughing when I read that comment. (I'm not drinking wine (damn) but I AM eating grapes so it's like pre-wine.)

  3. That bugs me too - why doesn't the basilisk eat the people it's petrified? Too crunchy? Is that explained later?

    CoS is definitely the most "meh" of all the books, but at least reading it with an eye to how it connects to the others is making it a bit more interesting. Won't stop me speeding to finish it so we can start Prisoner of Azkaban and start our Sirius-love posts.

    1. "at least reading it with an eye to how it connects to the others is making it a bit more interesting"

      SO true. Fancy reading it for the first time and thinking that a vanishing cabinet was just a vanishing cabinet.

      I have very complicated feelings for Sirius. It is a love/hate/pity relationship that I have with him.

  4. I was pretty happy that so many other expert and trustworthy readers think this is the dullest in the series. I have trouble getting through it, although there are bright spots. But soldier on, I will.

    1. Spoken like a true Yoda, you have. :-)

      still, i'm looking forward to the actual chamber of secrets and the final interaction of Lucius/Harry/Dobby at the end.

  5. Um, that was basically the nicest rec for my blog ever. And I thank you.

    Ohhh riiiiight, the CLOCK. But *still*. If your kids vanish in the night, it is scary. Scary, I say!

    I was wondering why Harry didn't disappear...and excellent point about Lucius! The Malfoy family is a serious love of mine. Because yeah, they kind of suck sometimes, but they do love each OTHER. Like a lot.

    1. Kids vanishing in the night? Very scary, especially if you've already lived through Vold War I. Which is, presumably, why she and Arthur have that dang clock to begin with. I am down with her anger and I think the kids deserve a bit of wrath, but I am not down with her claims that they could be th wizarding equivalent of "dead on the side of the road"

      Oh, the Malfoy family. So complicated. So interesting. So [largely] misunderstood since almost all we know of them is from a biased source. I do wish draco were less of an asswipe, though.

    2. THE CLOCK DOESN'T EXIST IN THIS BOOK! Or at least it definitely isn't the one in book 4.

      "The clock on the wall in front of him had only one hand and no numbers at all. Written around the edge were things like 'time to make tea' 'time to feed the chickens' and 'you're late'"

      Clearly this is a clock for Molly specifically and since it doesn't have an arm for each weasley OF COURSE she'd be worried.


    3. By the way, I will forever use vold war 1 to describe the time before. Brilliant.

    4. Kayleigh, you may be right about that. It's hard to tell if the clock we know in later books is 'new' then, or if we're only hearing about it for the first time because harry notices it for the first time.

    5. I would say it's new since a clock is specifically mentioned in this book which is clearly different - and I don't imagine that's the kind of clock they have in any room except their most used room.

      Of course, it could simply be hanging in the living room/bedroom etc but personally I'd say the reason it's different/not mentioned is because JK hadn't thought of it yet!

  6. I guess she forgot to look at her clock, which tells her where all of her family are at any given time?

    This is amazing. I never ever thought about this. (Also, I want a clock like this.)

    Almost all the negative things that happen at Hogwarts could have been prevented if Harry and Co. would just tell a responsible adult about it. But then I guess there would be no plot and we'd have seven books of Lockhart falling over and Hermione making everyone look stupid.

    Which actually sounds pretty great, sooo...

    1. "we'd have seven books of Lockhart falling over and Hermione making everyone look stupid."

      Yeah, I could dig that. Or at least the Hermione bits!

  7. I love you preface with a very accurate description of Awesome Alice's blog. Very accurate. <3

    I think we all agree wholeheartedly that CoS is our least favorite book. Though the reveal/twist in the chamber was one of my favorites.

    Totes agree on Dobby = Jar Jar Binks. Ughhh I can't stand him.

    I loved reading the knockturn alley part and spotting the vanishing cabinet! JK, YOU GENIUS.

    1. Yes. more Knockturn Alley, please! (maybe she'll show us more during Pottermore? )

  8. Ha, the trying to hit Harry with a frying pan wasn't SO bad! Okay, it's quickly becoming obvious that me and my friends just had tougher parents than normal, cause I'm all "ehhh, whatever". Locking him in his room and hardly feeding him IS where they start to cross the line into abuse, but by then who cares because he knows now that he's a wizard and won't have to deal with them forever. He'll live.

    In defense of Mr. Weasley, doesn't Molly mention that he purposely put in some loopholes in the laws so that you can work magic on Muggle objects, as long as you don't have any intent of doing something bad with them or something like that? Still, I love how he's so into the Muggle-world, it's like he's just as geeky as we all are for being so into the wizarding world.

    I forget, where does Draco say that he wouldn't have minded Ravenclaw? Is that a fanfic thing? But still, Lucius was first tsk-tsking him for doing badly, and then added the insult to Hermione on top of it. Which is really crappy cause booooo to bigotry, but I like that he just expects more out of his son in general and not lousy grades.

    "Ugh, this is taking too long. I'm spending WAY more time searching for GIFs than I am writing this here post."

    TRUTH. I end up feeling like that every week, lol.

    1. I like your Arthur: muggles, we: wizarding world analogy. Yes, so true.

      Draco tells Harry in PS/SS (before he knows that it's Harry) in Madame Malkin's that he's sure he'll be in Slytherin, but that if he got put in Ravenclaw he wouldn't mind it. And then he goes on the badmouth the 'Puffs.

      Re: tough parents. Maybe so. I'm about half a generation older than most of the participants and mine were definitely the no-nonsense, take-no-guff, no-means-no variety. They definitely weren't opposed to spankings, either. But trying to hit me with a frying pan when I was 11-12? Nope. None of that.
      Now later, when I was an obnoxious teenager, I probably would have had it coming to me... :-)

    2. Actually, Ron says he wouldn't mind being put in Ravenclaw while he and Harry are on the train to Hogwarts. Draco only mentions Slytherin and Hufflepuff in Madam Malkin's.

    3. oh my gosh, christy, you're right. i just went back and checked. i feel like a major twit now for getting that wrong.


    Ahem. I know that everyone loves all the Weasleys, but I'm actually with you on Arthur- he's a preeeetty bad authority figure and whatnot, and he's waaaaay not as awesome as Molly (I don't like HATE him or anything. But I don't think he's that amazing).

    And I would like to think that Lucius wouldn't have entirely known what he was doing with the diary, because HIS SON COULD HAVE DIED AND THEN WHO WOULD HE HAVE BEEN MEAN TO?! So maybe he just thought it would be mischiefy rather than actually dangerous? Who can say?

    1. My feelings about the Weasleys are so tricky to suss out. I think Molly is the better parent for younger children and Arthur is the better role model for older children. I don't find Molly to be all that awesome, actually, but then again, we mostly only ever see her through the Harry Filter.

      Re: lucius and the diary. I think we have to be right about that. I think if Lucius actually knew what it was, he'd have tried to either bring the Dark Lord back himself or tried his best to destroy it. (sidebar: after Harry killed Voldy's body when he was a baby, I think Lucius was among those death eaters relieved that he was gone and happy to resume his normal life of prominence in the wizarding world.)

      no, I think Lucius wanted to make the Weasley family look bad by causing quite serious mischief for the muggle-loving family to be caught with dark artifacts. i don't think lucius would knowingly put a piece of the dark lord's soul in ginny's shopping basket and hope that she'd unleash a basilisk.

      then again, something draco says later in the book makes me doubt my certainty, but that will have to wait for next week's discussion!!!

    2. I feel like in a later book one of the reasons Malfoy Snr is ambivalent about Voldey's return is that Voldemort was angry that he'd been so flippant with the diary and was treating him badly. V definitely says (or Dumbledore surmises?) that he gave the diary to Lucius for safe keeping, and with all the raids Lucius decided to give it away.

      What I'm trying to say in a round about way is that I don't think Lucius knew anything about it being anything other than an empty diary - but even an empty diary that belonged to V wouldn't look good if found. Of course, he could have guessed since Voldy is the darkest dude around that it wasn't empty but there's no way he knew anything about it being a Horcrux.


  11. Followed you over from Goodreads and am crying/laughing at all the GIFs. I haven't read the Harry Potter series in several years (since book seven came out), but this makes me want to read it again. I saw in your other read-a-long post that there is a lot of setting up for the rest of the series in these books, so it would definitely be interesting to see that.

    1. Thanks for checking out the readalong, Whitney. I'm sure I speak for everybody when I say that you should join in with us. In two days we discuss the second half of Chamber, but next week we start discussing Prisoner of Azkaban, which is my personal favorite.


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