Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Caution: This entire Book Club contains spoilers.
Dear Will and Dan,
I disagree about the epilogue. I find it perfectly fitting that a book about schoolchildren working out the consequences of their parents' experiences as schoolchildren should end with a glimpse of their own children heading off to school. I don't believe that Rowling doesn't know or doesn't care what happened to Harry, Hermione, Ron, etc.; I certainly don't believe that she considers their careers unimportant. Rather, she's telling her readers—particularly the children—that children are the heart of her story.
And anyway, who says Harry isn't an Auror and Hermione isn't the minister of magic? Rowling leaves that to her readers' imaginations, a plentiful commodity. This week most of it is bent on celebrating, deploring, reworking, extending, interpreting, interpolating, and generally poring over Rowling's world. Harry and his friends are in good hands—millions of them.
Unlike both of you—and most readers?—I find I have no desire for another sequel. Now that it's all over, I'm glad to be done with it. I loved the beginning of the series, which sparkled with light touches, cozy scenes, and ingenious devices, but I've found the past few books unwieldy, diffuse, and way too long, and the attempts at mythmaking tiresome. For me, the Deathly Hallows was the last haystack.
I could quibble for pages. House elves, for example: Wizardly restrictions on magic don't apply to them; they can apparate past enchanted defenses. In several of the books, the Death Eaters could have used a tidy, reliable method of infiltrating Hogwarts. Why aren't the good guys more worried about the house elf threat? Rowling's explanation—that Voldemort & Co. consider the elves beneath their notice—strikes me as lame.
Or take Lily's death. Dan, you mention Rowling's fascination with "parents' fierce and protective love for their children." You're right. It's all over the series—Molly Weasley, Luna's dad. So why does Rowling present Lily Potter's decision to give her life for her son as unique, the thing that sets him apart from wizardkind? Even the pointedly named Narcissa Malfoy puts aside her self-interest for her son's sake. What's so special about Lily's sacrifice? Isn't that just the logical conclusion of parental love—wouldn't any mother do the same?
I could go on and on like this, and not just with my own quibbles; my inbox, the "Fray," and the entire Internet are crammed with other people's. But I don't really believe we quibblers are disappointed in the book because of its faults and inconsistencies. I think it's the other way around. If we weren't disappointed already, we might not even consider those things flaws. One of my friends finds it grating that wizards live in a world that intersects with the Muggle world (Diagon Alley is in London), but they don't even know how to dress; she thinks Rowling goes for cheap laughs without caring how much they cost in inconsistencies. I love Rowling's humor, so that doesn't bother me. I'm sure if I loved her larger vision I would see the holes as a beautiful lacy pattern, useful for ventilation, that keeps the books from getting stuffy.
I hope Rowling goes on to write more novels—short ones, with her signature slapstick belle esprit. If she doesn't, I'll read other people's. There are plenty at least as good.