Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
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Nov 05, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, ya, favourite, re-read, made-me-cry
Read in November, 2011, read count: 3

After another summer spent stuck at his aunt and uncle's house in Little Whinging, Surrey, Harry is chafing and tense waiting for Lord Voldemort to make his move. But there's nothing in either the wizard news or the Muggle news. Then late one day he and his cousin, Dudley, are attacked by Dementors and Harry is forced to break the under-age use of magic law to defend them.

Now facing a hearing at the Ministry of Magic and possible expulsion from Hogwarts, he is brought to number 12 Grimmauld Place in London, ancestral home of his godfather, Sirius Black, and new headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. The Weasley family is living there, as is Hermione, but Harry only feels more resentful and angry at being left out and kept ignorant. Isn't he the one who saw Voldemort return to full strength and kill Cedric Diggory? Isn't he the one who battled him and escaped to return and warn everyone that Voldemort had returned?

But now that he's back in the wizarding world, he learns that the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, is denying it all and making Harry look attention-grabbing and even insane: "Potty Potter." Dumbledore, too, is being vilified for insisting the Dark Lord is back and they must be prepared and united to fight him. In their attempt to control Dumbledore and Harry, the Ministry instates one of their own, Dolores Umbridge, in the cursed position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. While Voldemort takes over Harry's dreams at night, Umbridge is determined to ruin his life by day.

This is probably my favourite of the series. I love how involved and detailed it is, how it gets immersed in life at the school, and how complex the world has really become. It feels so real to me: Harry, his life, his world. It's also, I find, the most emotionally rich (with the possible exception of the final book, but I've only read that one once so far so I'm not sure). Not only is Harry continuing to mature and grow and is very true to his age - Rowling writes with exceptional skill and nowhere is this more apparent than in bringing Harry to life in each book, a whole year older.

This book is all love to me. Yes it's the longest and perhaps the slowest in the series, but it's actually extremely eventful and busy. There's A LOT going on here, and it's a more, shall we say, "adult" plot. One of my favourite lines is when Sirius says to Harry, the world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters. It's an important distinction for Harry to really learn and understand, especially as in every book he suspects Snape and he's always wrong. Here, he was thinking Umbridge was in league with Voldemort, because she's so awful and cruel, and that's when Sirius tries to explain that the world isn't that straight-forward. It marks Harry's real turning point, leaving childhood and a lingering belief and trust in adults (anyone other than Dark Lord supporters and his relatives) behind. It's not that this wasn't clear to us in the previous books, but until the ministry itself turned on Harry and Dumbledore, he had a naïve trust that the truth always wins. Now, he learns that people can have complex motivations and their own agendas.

Umbridge in particular teaches him this harsh lesson. She's a wonderful character, absolutely horrible with no redeeming feature but with a scary certainty that she's in the right. People as inflexible as Umbridge are always dangerous characters in fantasy, and Umbridge takes the cake. Rowling paints a vivid portrait of her, appearance-wise, and it really sticks in your head. Inherently racist, Umbridge has a fear of half-breeds and an arrogant belief in the superiority of wizards and witches over all humans and non-humans alike; add to this her position of power and she becomes quite the enemy. She may be an obvious character (Rowling clearly had some fun in making her so absolutely horrid), but she's sadly representative.

Alongside Umbridge, who's a favourite of mine (you just love to hate her!), other things in this fifth book that I love include the thestrals, the skeletal winged horses that only people who've seen death can see; the showdowns between Umbridge and the other teachers; getting an intimate glimpse into Neville's life; Snape's memories from his own days as a student at Hogwarts; the battle at the Department of Mysteries; Fred and George Weasley's send-off mayhem; and the DA meetings. In a way, this instalment gives us some breathing space in the series, especially after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire , in terms of adventure, yet it's also hugely important in terms of not just the over-arching plot (Harry finally learns the truth about his connection to Voldemort), but in terms of Harry's own personal development.

It's also really sad - actually, books 4 to 7 all end sadly, with a death and some hard-hitting stuff. I always felt that the death here was the worst, because it's so personal and so unfair - is Harry never to have family to love?

The violence in this book really struck me - it's not that there wasn't danger and a lot of hexes thrown around in the previous books, but somehow here the stakes are so much higher, the spells that much more vicious. It's not just hexes and jinxes to bring on sudden deformities, like those the students inflict each other with, but grown and experienced Death Eaters directing killing curses at Harry and his friends. Those scenes are filled with tension, suspense, danger, and since Cedric died in the previous book, it feels like no one is safe anymore. And I felt absolutely awful for the "baby-headed Death Eater", especially as I had my own 3-month-old asleep on my lap at the time and since becoming a mother, the cries of the floundering, panicking, scared baby-headed Death Eater was really quite upsetting.

This was also a real "kick me" story, like when Harry unwraps Sirius' present at the very end of the school year to find a kind of two-way magic mirror with which he could contact Sirius - if only he'd unwrapped it earlier and he would never have been lied to by Kreacher!! I also felt anger at Dumbledore for not being honest with Harry: why should he expect a boy to take occlumency lessons from someone he hates - Snape - without telling him why it's so bloody important? At least Dumbledore apologised and told Harry everything at the end; he became human in that moment, and remains a kind of surrogate father-figure.

On a side note, it suddenly occurred to me while reading this big fat book that in all the Harry Potter books, I've never come across a typo. No typos, no missing articles, not even a "ay" instead of "lying" or a "lead" instead of "led". And trust me, if they're there, I always find them. So well-done to the proof-reader, I wish more books were this clean.

When I finished reading this book for the third time, I watched the movie which I hadn't seen since it came out in the cinema. I remembered Imelda Staunton (wonderful actress) playing Dolores Umbridge to perfection, and the DA meetings were captured so well - I loved how the Room of Requirement vanished for those who weren't members of the DA, which it didn't do in the book. I remember thinking, the first couple of times I read the book, that I really really wanted to see Snape's memories in the film, but I had misremembered and thought it wasn't included, so seeing it there - even if it was quick - was a nice surprise. But I wasn't satisfied with Michael Gambon's representation of Dumbledore - he seemed so angry and even bitchy, and not as in-control as he is in the book, nor with the kind of sense of humour Dumbledore's always displayed.

I never expect - or want - book adaptations to be exact replicas of the book; they need to bring something new, and they need to adapt to a different medium. But with a book of this size and scope full of so much detail, it is sad to see what they decided to leave out, or condense, in order to make it work as a film that's not too long. I'm definitely a bigger fan of the books than the movies.
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message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan It was wonderful to revisit this book via your review, Shannon.


Sath Same here! Makes me really really want to get all the dvds out again! I live for the snape flashbacks too <3


message 8: by Muse (last edited Nov 09, 2011 09:18AM) (new)

Muse Here My daughter just started book 6, so of course we had to re-watch the movie (with her narrating all the differences all the way through). I love that this series has become something we can really share. This one, was when Snape firmly became a good guy in my head. I was suspicious of Harry believing he was the bad guy, with all the events in the previous books, but with this one, his character's "side" really solidified with me. This was the point when he became my favorite character and I decided I really loved him. Perhaps it was the glimpses into his past, perhaps it was his interactions with Umbridge, I'm not sure what the exact point was, but this is when I knew he was a good person, even if it was hidden deep.
One of the things that stuck out for my daughter, was how Tonks was struggling with guilt for death near the end. It was an excellent conversation starter on how sometimes we feel responsible for things that are completely out of our control. [It's times like this that I wonder if the next potential books I've found for her are going to cause such excellent conversations between us.]
I was really angry at Dumbledore in this one, but I agree with you, that in the end, we realize how people (even people we may deem to be admirable great heroes) make mistakes.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Did we ever find out why Dumbledore trusts Snape? It's a detail I really can't remember, though maybe it comes out in Half-Blood Prince? I'm about to start re-reading that one.

I can't help but feel sorry for Snape - once you found out how mean everyone was to him, even if he was not very likeable - his loneliness struck me as profound.

I plan on reading these books to my son when he's old enough (he's not quite 4 months now) and I'm curious what kinds of questions he'll ask - but looking forward to it too. :)

I love hearing your stories Muse!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Did we ever find out why Dumbledore trusts Snape? It's a detail I really can't remember, though maybe it comes out in Half-Blood Prince? I'm about to start re-reading that one.

I can't help but feel sorry for Snape - once you found out how mean everyone was to him, even if he was not very likeable - his loneliness struck me as profound.

I plan on reading these books to my son when he's old enough (he's not quite 4 months now) and I'm curious what kinds of questions he'll ask - but looking forward to it too. :)

I love hearing your stories Muse!


Lisa Vegan Shannon wrote: "Did we ever find out why Dumbledore trusts Snape? It's a detail I really can't remember, though maybe it comes out in Half-Blood Prince? I'm about to start re-reading that one.

I can't help but fe..."


Yes; you'll find out.

If you want to know now (view spoiler)


message 4: by Muse (new)

Muse Here The reason Snape switched sides and why he's so trusted by Dumbledore I believe is really revealed in the very last book, as Harry finally discovers the truth about their 'connection', so to speak. I think the author drops hints about it in every book, but I don't think it's fully explained and understood until book 7. Just to remind you though, I'm still back on book 1 (my first reading through) I've heard about all the books from my sister (who started them when they first came out) and now from my daughter, who just started book 6 (and is already almost to page 300). She seriously flies through books.
I think the reason Snape is not so likable is also explained after we know the whole story. Looking at what he's been through and where he came from, it's much easier to understand how he ended up where he is. I must admit, he did creep me out in the first one, but at the end, I realized there was really too much about him that we didn't know and decided to reserve my judgement until we knew more. By the time we got to know him in this book, he had become my favorite character. And I really love how the author makes him appear so guilty some times. I remember several occasions when I tried to persuade my daughters of his innocence, but without having the reasoning behind his actions, all I could really tell them was "I'm not sure why he did what he did, but I KNOW he had a good reason." I'm not sure why my belief was so solidified, but by the end of book 1 I decided he was the "fall guy", you know, the guy who gets blamed for all the crap. I really loved how she wrapped it all up in the end, but the journey was simply fascinating. I remember when the first movie came out and we took our kids, so my oldest daughter really feels like she's actually grown up with Harry. I wish I'd started her on the books earlier, but at least now she doesn't have to wait till the next one comes out. lol.


Lisa Vegan Muse wrote: "but at least now she doesn't have to wait till the next one comes out."

She's very lucky. It was torture. ;-)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I think Snape offers an important lesson in not judging people by appearances or first impressions - in understanding shades of grey - doesn't he. I love Snape for being complex, and for being a character the opposite of Umbridge: mean but "good". You're right Muse, the journey is what it's all about.

I love not being able to remember the last two books very well - it'll make re-reading them so fresh and exciting!! So I won't visit your spoiler link, Lisa, but thanks for the reassurance! :)


Lisa Vegan Shannon, I'd do the same thing: wait and read it in the book(s).


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