Sunday, May 8, 2016


By Charlotte
Book Review: How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J.K. Rowling's Bestselling Books by John Granger
Official FC Rating:

There is one major spoiler in this review. If you haven't read or watched Harry Potter, you might not want to read this.

I am slightly obsessed with Harry Potter, guys. Ever so slightly. So I was giddy as a gargoyle when I got my hot little hands on this book. I first heard of it while I was reading one of my favorite blogs - Carrots for Michaelmas (or at least.. I'm pretty sure that's where I first heard about it). I headed over to Amazon and soaked up the reviews, knowing this book would be perfect for me. It is a trifecta of good topics: Harry Potter, writing, and religion. Swoon. (And the author's name is Granger! Like Hermione! Insignificant but mildly fun, yes?)

I enjoyed this book very much. Granger makes the argument that so many people are drawn to the Harry Potter series because of its Christian symbolism and meanings. Not in an "oh! It's Christian! We need to read it!" way, rather in a subtler way. The books never mention Christianity, but they're filled with Christian themes, whether or not readers immediately recognize them (I didn't catch every Christian symbol while reading them by a long shot). Granger argues that people are drawn to these themes because they are true and good. (Side: I agree, and I think it's important to clarify: I don't think things are true because they are Christian - I think things are Christian because they're true. So for example, if I'm reading Catholic doctrine I don't go, "oh! The Catholic church is telling me this is good, so it must be true!" Instead it's "This thing is good and so the Catholic Church proclaims it to be true." The church doesn't make things true - it proclaims the truth. ANYWAY...) So yes. I get what he's saying here. Whether or not we identify as a certain religion or believe in God, we're all drawn to God and goodness which flows from Him. I dig it. That's his main argument in the book: it is chock full of Christian symbols and stories and we're therefore drawn to it.

Using bc Christians are thought to be the most judgmental bastards. eek. 
Now, when I first told my friend about it, she hypothesized that Granger probably just nit-picked parts he wanted from the books to make it seem like it was Christian, or at least stretched certain situations to fit his own theories. I admittedly worried about this myself when I first bought the book. But there were very, very few instances where I thought Granger was really stretching it to make something fit his case. Also, he mentions several instances where Rowling herself said she was using Christian symbols or that she specifically studied alchemy (which is tied to Christianity) while writing Harry Potter, so Granger's arguments are, I think, valid.

Some things he wrote about were obvious - there's no doubting the Christianity of Harry's decision to walk into the forest and sacrifice himself to save everyone else. But there are so many other things I hadn't noticed!!! They seem obvious now, of course. Example: In Sorcerer's Stone, Harry woke up three days after his struggle with Quirrel/Voldemort. Sound familiar?

Even if you don't dig the premise, the book is still worth the read. You can disagree that everyone is drawn to God in literature and still dig the really cool meanings throughout the books. Also! Granger talks about interesting names of many characters, how the characters interact with one another and how that relates to alchemy, and so much more. I don't want to give much away by describing everything I liked.

As for the things I wasn't wildly fond about.......

Sometimes (not throughout the entire book) the tone would become slightly patronizing. Not even in a very condescending way, but definitely in an "I know more than you" kind of way. It wasn't often enough to make me dislike the book or the author, but it did annoy me. Another thing, and this happened at the end of every. single. chapter., instead of smoothly transitioning into the next chapter (or just.. not mentioning the next chapter until the next chapter actually started...), Granger would say things like, "Turn the page to see what we think about ____!" or "Keep reading to find out how Goblet of Fire ______!" Unnecessary! SO UNNECESSARY. And again, while most of his examples of Christian symbolism or meaning were solid, there were a few stretches (but very few - five at most).

Over all though, I loved this book so much! I thought the structure was smart and made sense (divided into chapters like "alchemy," "names," "magical creatures," etc and then moving into the meanings of each individual book). Other than the occasional patronizing, the tone was light and fun while still being smart. It was also really helpful to me since I'd like to write a book. And most of all, it made me love Harry Potter even more, if that's possible! I ended up rereading some of the HP books while/after reading this one because I was eager to delight in even more of the meaning than I usually do. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to write, anyone who loves Harry Potter, and people who enjoy religion.

You can never have too many Harry Potter books, after all.


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