Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Can you hear it? It’s the whoosh of millions of readers’ attention being pulled away from the other books they might have read this weekend and sucked right into the last Harry Potter.

I realize that many of the people who will be reading it wouldn’t have been reading anything else this weekend anyway (there was a New York Times article recently–sorry, it’s already migrated to the Times Select archives–about how the Harry Potter effect on children’s overall reading doesn’t seem to be as powerful as it’s been given credit for). But since I’m reading more or less all the time anyway, it’s a funny feeling knowing that pretty much all I will be reading this weekend is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ll be setting aside a nonfiction book by a writer I’ll be working with later this summer, a couple of books of poetry by a writer I have to introduce at a reading, and the latest issue of the New Yorker.

I’m going to make a few predictions after the jump. Follow me there if you’re interested. But in the meantime: Are you going to be reading Harry Potter’s last installment this weekend? What’s going to go unread while you do?

Michiko Kakutani let slip that a “half-dozen characters we have come to know” die in the book. My predictions for some of those who die:

  • Hagrid
  • Mr. Weasley
  • Professor McGonagall
  • Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail
  • Two or three miscellaneous Gryffindors–Seamus? Dean? Luna?
  • Snape, but for the right reasons

And other general predictions:

  • Ron and Hermione will live, but at least one of them, probably Ron, will suffer horribly, surviving but maimed. Voldemort will attempt to tear apart the friendship among the three of them and/or use the friendship against Harry.
  • Aunt Petunia and/or Dudley will perform some good service that proves the power of the blood tie and/or goes some way toward atoning for all the misery the Dursleys visited on Harry in the years he spent with them. Possibly it will turn out they were secretly doing something good for him all along (besides extending the power of the magic protection Harry’s mother gave him with her death). Harry will be surprised to discover that he doesn’t really want them to suffer, despite how badly they treated him for so long. (Michiko Kakutani also mentioned that various characters, including Dumbledore, Snape, and Dudley, are shown to be more complex than “all good/all evil,” and that Rowling reinforces her theme–and Dumbledore’s–that it’s our choices, more than our circumstances, that define us.)
  • Things will get pretty rough for Neville Longbottom, but I rather think he’ll pull through.
  • Harry will be alive on the last page of the book. I argued to my friend B. that so much of the books has been in third-person-limited narration, it’s hard to imagine JKR actually killing Harry off from a technical point of view. B. pointed out to me that the first book begins with third-person omniscient (and there are episodes of it elsewhere, as when Cornelius Fudge visits the Muggle Prime Minister), so why couldn’t the series end that way? Or perhaps we’ll go behind the curtain with Harry. B. has a point, but still, I think Harry will be kicking. Changed, but still kicking.

See you in 784 pages.

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