I wouldn’t normally be in a bookstore at midnight, even for Harry Potter, but I was boarding a plane early Saturday morning and worried that I wouldn’t have the book on vacation. It was kind of fun at the store — lots of positive energy — but I was tired and I knew I’d have to get up early. In any event, I got the last book, only to discover it at the airport terminal next morning. C’est la vie!
I finished the book by Saturday evening. It’s both very good and somewhat mediocre. The last first: the writing is sometimes clunky and labored. You can feel Rowling’s fatigue as she ploughs her way through the last volume of her magnum opus. “Must get plot point out. Must move story forward.” Some chapters drag.
Having said that, though, I forgive her. As Meghan Cox Gurdon says in her excellent WSJ review, Rowling pulls it off, tying together every loose end in a most satisfactory way:
The answer (with a friendly, we’ll-talk-about-it-later nod to the critics who doubt the literary merits of the series) is that Ms. Rowling does indeed pull it off, and beautifully. Hints and clues and partly developed plot lines from the preceding books come together in “Deathly Hallows” so successfully that it is clear, as fans hoped, that Ms. Rowling always knew where Harry’s story would end. She has said that the idea of the Harry Potter epic simply fell into her head one day; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” confirms how amazingly complete her vision was.
Ms. Gurdon also points out that the Harry Potter books, in keeping with the Narnia and Ring books that clearly inspired them, are Christian in their message:
It has been widely observed that J.K. Rowling owes a creative debt to Christian fantasists J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (apart from their fondness for initials). It’s odd now to remember that, at the same time, some parents have objected to the magic depicted in the Harry Potter books as a glorification of satanic practices. For “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” confirms something else apart from the well-thought-out-ness of Ms. Rowling’s moral universe: It is subtly but unmistakably Christian.
The principal Hogwarts holidays have always been Christmas and Easter, but it took five books before Ms. Rowling really began tipping her hand. In Book Six, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” she addressed concepts of free will, the power of love, and the sanctity of the soul. But in the final volume she gently lays it all out. The preciousness of each human life; bodily resurrection after death; mercy, forgiveness and redemption; sacrificial love overcoming the powers of evil–strip away the elves, goblins, broomsticks and magic wands and these are the concepts that underpin the marvelously intricate world of Harry Potter.
There are clues throughout. At one point, Harry is led to a weapon that will enable him to destroy the Horcruxes when he finds them: “The ice reflected his distorted shadow and the beam of wandlight, but deep below the thick, misty gray carapace, something else glinted. A great silver cross . . .”
Two unattributed New Testament quotations recur in the story after Harry sees each on a tombstone in the village where he was born and his mother and father died. He discovers on the Dumbledore family tomb “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” from Matthew. And on the grave of his own parents, he finds this, from I Corinthians: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” On seeing it, Harry feels momentary horror: Does it imply a link between his parents and Voldemort’s followers? Hermione gently sets him straight: “It doesn’t mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry. It means . . . you know . . . living beyond death. Living after death.”
There’s even more Christian imagery, but I suggest you read the book yourself to find out what it is. I’ll go back to my old point that these conservative Judeo-Christian themes still resonate in our Western culture and trump so much of the pap that’s out there.