Michelle and I are still posting away on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, but now that we've finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets we wanted to discuss some of our thoughts here more in depth.
V: I enjoyed Chamber of Secrets much more than I anticipated. It's not my favorite HP book, and though I obviously love all of the books in the series, Sorcerer's Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban stand out so much more to me, leaving Chamber of Secrets behind in the dust. But I really liked it this time. I'm much fonder of this book than I thought, and I think this is because I actually slowed down and paid more attention to the book than I normally would have. Have you experienced this with either of the books we've read so far?? I know most people seem to like books 4 and 5 best (which is strange to me because those two are my least favorite), so what's your opinion on these two early books?? Things really start to get darker in Prisoner of Azkaban (as if they weren't dark enough already), so I'm curious to know what you think of the first two books, since they are generally considered to be more lighthearted and are aimed at a younger audience. The beginning of the series is very special to me because Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all closest to my age in these books (I was 8). However, having finished Chamber of Secrets again and really enjoyed it this much, I might have to reevaluate my long-standing favorites list of Potter books.
M: I've loved both of these books the second time around. Chamber of Secrets was a bit different than Sorcerer's Stone because even though there is plenty of magic it is less magical; maybe that's just me... I was surprised by how dark this book is. As you say, these two early books are the most lighthearted and this one is full of some pretty heavy stuff. I don't recall connecting more heavily with any one book in the series over another. I connect heavily with scenes involving Neville Longbottom of which I think Book Five has the most - so Order of Phoenix all the way!
My big thing coming out of Chamber of Secrets though is the foreshadowing!! I know that you have been noticing this stuff from the beginning but anyone familiar with later events in the series cannot deny that JK basically knew what was going to go down in the end at this early date. She begins to build on the relationship between Harry and Voldemort in a way that affects the last actions of the series. It's brilliant really.
Then, though I'm hesitant to bring this up, there's the Ron-Hermione thing. Rowling and Emma Watson recently questioned rather or not Ron and Hermione would have ended up together/had a happy life together. First let's take away the fact that they are children when we know them and we know nothing of their adult life experiences and just deal with this - they are twelve years old in this book and Ron is already so dead loyal to Hermione. Something happened between Books One and Two that changed their dynamic. I will say this, Ron is already clearly in love with Hermione and his reactions to her being abused and harmed in this book prove that. And it's heartwarming and adorable and I like to imagine them happy together in their later years even if Hermione is far more accomplished than Ron. Agreed?
V: I completely agree about the foreshadowing and the Ron/Hermione thing 100%. Ron clearly has deep feelings for her, even if at this point they are only friendship-feelings. He works very hard to defend her in this book, and I really loved it. But I also love that no matter how much he defends Hermione, he still treats her like just Hermione. He doesn't put her on a pedestal and refuse to see her flaws or anything. He still finds her annoying sometimes, he still thinks she's silly and weird and reads too much...it's what makes their friendship and later their romantic relationship so normal and believable. Because sure, Ron makes fun of Hermione plenty, but when push comes to shove, he'll support her completely.
I think you make a very good point about the fact that we don't see these characters fully into their adult lives. I personally think Ron changes a LOT by the end of the series. It's impossible to watch these two 12 year olds and decide whether or not they could succeed romantically.
I pointed out SO MUCH FORESHADOWING in my copy of the book. It’s all over the place. I don't know if you noticed, but they even mentioned Mundungus Fletcher early on in this book. Chamber of Secrets and Half-Blood Prince are very closely connected books, even JKR said so, and it's obvious and impossible to ignore once you know it's there. I paid special attention to Dumbledore in the closing scenes when Harry hands him Riddle's diary and explains what it did. Because Dumbledore knows a lot more in that scene than he lets on, and you can usually tell. He's quite interested in such an object.
I also really loved Dobby in this one, though he's changed a little for me. I noticed that Dobby really does only care about keeping Harry safe. Dobby isn't interested in trying to stop the danger or save everyone else, he's interested in keeping Harry safe. This, combined with Dobby's beautiful explanation of what Harry means to the lowly like himself really moved me. Harry literally is Dobby's greatest hope. Harry is the one shining light in a world of darkness for Dobby and other such creatures. It helps explain Firenze's reaction to Harry in Book 1, and it's something that, reading the books mostly from Harry's perspective, we really don't get to see. Just like Harry, we have NO IDEA what the dark days were like. We get some of it by Book 7, but it's not quite the same. We don't really have the benefit of understanding just how much hope and joy Harry brought to the entire Wizarding world. Dobby gives us (and Harry) a little glimpse into that, and I loved it.
For the record, I super love Lockhart as a character. He's so terrible and over the top that I can't help but love him. Every scene he's in is absolutely hilarious.
M: I totally love Lockhart too! I'm always curious about how that happens - here's this person that anyone would detest upon actually meeting them but the author has molded him into something so gloriously over the top that you can't help but enjoy the scenes that he is in. Gilderoy Lockhart is just beyond and I love it even if it is hard to reconcile the actual havoc he leaves in his wake (not at Hogwarts necessarily but throughout his entire life).
Oh, and Firenze. I am so intrigued by the centaurs and I'm excited to encounter them again later. They embody the sort of beautiful mystery of magic for me. Within Hogwarts we have the actual learning of magic and skills needed to perform it but out there in the Forbidden Forest and beyond we have this wealth of creatures that are in harmony with the magical world - that's very intriguing.
I hadn't really thought about what Harry means to lower lifeforms in the Wizarding world, but I thought a lot about the...should we call it racism? classism? I guess overall prejudice would be the most apt phrasing.Chamber of Secrets is saying a lot about prejudice and judging on merit rather than by blood (or what have you), and what is interesting about that is that Harry completely lacks these prejudices - he has difficulty being unkind to garden gnomes. Growing up Muggle (oh man, that should totally be the title of your memoir by the way) Harry considers all magical creatures equal and equally amazing. As does the reader, which has real world implications. In so many ways this series serves as a morality fable, and like all the best children's literature before it you are so entertained you don't even realize you are learning to be a better person.
V: Exactly! There's just so much! It's what makes these books so magical. There's a whole world out there we never even get to see. The fact that it feels so real that parts that don't even exist in the books can exist in my head is its own kind of magic. I also completely agree about the prejudice ideas you mentioned. That becomes incredibly important in this book and once again foreshadows the development of the rest of the series. Book 2 is the first time Harry has to come to terms with the fact that the Wizarding world is not all magic, wonder, and happiness. There are some really dark things going on, and they don't all stem from Voldemort.
So that wraps up Chamber of Secrets! We've watched Harry face down He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named twice already, and now it's time to take a turn into the first book in the series that does not feature the series' main villain. We're delving into Prisoner of Azkaban, and I know I certainly can't wait to meet some of my favorite characters in the series once again! Get ready for "double, double, toil and trouble!"