The Big Birthday

Not mine, but Harry Potter and JK Rowling.

Twenty years ago, the story of a boy wizard and his adventures lit up our lives. Seven books totaling around four thousand pages gave us more than we needed for the rest of our lives to obsess over.

Only, I didn’t buy into this particular bestselling phenomena until the fourth book was out.

I had been aware of the hype building up around Harry Potter, which had reached a peak around book 4, but I contented myself with the knowledge that I never read much fantasy anyway, and even if I did I wouldn’t delve into childish tales of wizards and witches flying around on brooms like imbeciles casting spells on one another for lack of anything better to do.

Boy, was I wrong.

Around a year before the fifth book released, I spoke to my sister, a voracious reader just like me. She said, have you read Harry Potter?

I said, no, why would I?

She said, read it. It’s like John Grisham for children.

Are you serious?

Get it now!

But I was still not sure. And I was weary of shelling out money and more importantly purchasing books that would further add to the burdens on my already ever-groaning bookshelf. Fortunately, I had a neighbor who was also a fan – a teenage boy who had read the books to tattered bits. I loaned them from him. He was kind enough to loan them to me, albeit with a sigh. I just can’t wait for book five, he said.

I thought: What losers! What could be so suspenseful that you couldn’t wait a little for a silly book?

That evening I read the first book. It was fun! I couldn’t guess the villain, which disappointed me profoundly.

I read the second book. I didn’t like it too much at first. Too dark for me. But the suspense pulled me over to the third, which many ranked as the finest of the series. By the time I reached the fourth book I was madly hooked. I read well into the night and woke up with puffed eyes.

When I reached the end of The Goblet of Fire, I was mad! We had to wait months for the next book? Where was the justice in this world?

From then on I stood in queue for the books. I put off packing for my trip to Singapore because I was too busy shedding tears when (do I really need to put a spoiler alert here??) Snape kills Dumbledore in Book Six.

Book Seven sealed my love for this series.

I tried to analyze why it appealed to me when other fantasy fiction didn’t. The answers I find online don’t match with my experience. I believe I liked it and it goaded me to consume more fantasy fiction because it was easy relatable in terms of the magic world that was created. Up until then I had found it difficult to dive into the fantasy world, but this one was easier to visualize.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I overcame the inertia and embraced this book with all my heart. JK Rowling made all our lives richer, and deserves all the accolades for it.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Which is your favourite book of the series? Do share!

The Legacy of Jane Austen, and a New Story Publication!

I’m happy to post that my story Perils in the Post has found a wonderful home in The Ilanot Review in their Letters-themed issue. The Ilanot Review is an excellent literary journal from Israel! Do hop over and take a look.

In other exciting news, 18th July this year marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. How fitting that my essay on Jane Austen was accepted just days ago, for an anthology by Ben Bulben Books. The piece, which I drafted over a week, captures my love for this great author and her delightful work. I would love to share a link to the anthology when it comes out.

Though I’ve read all her books, my favourite works of Jane Austen are the usual culprits: Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. My next favourite after these two would be Emma, followed by Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. I haven’t read Lady Susan yet but as it was her first novel she wrote, the general consensus is that it differs from her later work.

As a Jane-ite, I am not enamoured of all the variations on her work that have flooded the marketplace in the past few years. I’ve read only a few of them, but haven’t had the stomach to read any more. Here are a few that I’ve read: 

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Pride and Prejudice strides into the mystery genre courtesy the late great P.D. James and what an entry it is! I loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

This was quite successful but I didn’t enjoy it much. It spawned a movie version as well, and I tried watching it in an attempt to help reading the book, but that did not work either. It’s just one of those where my taste apparently doesn’t mesh with the general reading public. 

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

I read this years ago and though my memory of it is vague, I remember enjoying the read. She incorporates dialogues from the original text as well.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, and others in a similar vein

Pure blasphemy in my humble opinion, but that’s just me. The book was quite popular and well-appreciated, though I am sure it literally left JA turning in her grave.

This is only a sampling and there are many more, but I don’t want to tarnish the image of the original in my mind by reading derivative works. Perhaps at a later stage, I might grow a taste for it, but not now.

What’s your favourite Jane Austen novel?