Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Jim Dale
896 pages (27 hours)
My Copy: Borrowed from library (I own the book)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released on midnight on June 21, 2003 and I was there, standing in line at my local Borders, to get one of the first copies in line. I will always remember this book release because a) it was the first Potter-related midnight book release party I had been to and my best friend, Kristina, and I ended up waiting until after 1:30 AM to finally purchase our copies of the book, and b) it took place exactly one week before my wedding.
Committing yourself to reading an 896-page book the week you are getting married is a tall order, but I had absolutely decided that I would have finished by the time I walked down the aisle. I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my "I do's" if I was secretly trying to work out what was really contained in the Department of Mysteries and wondering what would happen during the climatic Voldemort vs. Dumbledore duel at the end.
The book is long, the longest of the series, but I still thought I could polish it off in a single day. Sadly, I was wrong, and it took me two or three days to finally have the whole thing completed (that did leave me more than enough time to get to the rehearsal dinner though). The same is true of listening to the book. It is 27 hours long! 27 hours! That's an entire day of listening and then some, so yeah, one day was not going to be enough.
The one good thing about the book coming out that week was that I was able to get several other copies to give to members of our bridal party as thank you gifts. Since no one in our circle of friends and family was as obsessed as me, I knew no one had started it yet!
One of the mistakes I made on my first reading was rushing through the story a little. After that, I learned to never rush another Potter novel, but to read carefully, soaking in all the details. After all, you only get one chance to read a book for the first time. When I finished the book, I remember being underwhelmed, and given its placement in the series, I can understand why I felt this. The story doesn't put forth any grand details, except that we learn that Harry is destined to kill Voldemort, or else be killed by him. It really isn't until the sixth and seventh book that we start to get the whole picture and understand how and why Harry must destroy Voldemort. But, of course, those seeds are planted here in this fifth story.
But, the book is a gem in its own right. Sure, Harry is moody, maybe a little bit too moody, but, after all that's happened, doesn't he have a right to be? I think Rowling really adeptly captures teenage angst and the first stirrings of love subplots in this volume. And, of course, the author gives us two uniquely wonderful female villains - Dolores Umbridge and Bellatrix Lestrange. A passive-aggressive, power hungry, government official - is there anything worse? And hateful, evil, sadistic Bellatrix is a force to be reckoned with (though, for the life of me, I can't understand why Jim Dale gives her a foreign accent? Shouldn't she be British?)
And then there is the death of Sirius, who Harry was beginning to regard as kind of a surrogate father, all at the same time that he is discovering that his own father was not all he thought him to be. Rowling could have easily left James and Lily Potter and perfect beacons of goodness, who sacrificed themselves to save their only son, but she is brave enough to give them flaws. Even Sirius, who has suffered so horribly and unjustly, can be, at times, an unsuitable guardian and role model. We're left to wonder if maybe Harry isn't better off without his influence after all.
As far as the movies go, Order of the Phoenix is easily my favorite. I think the filmmakers managed to perfectly capture the spirit of the book, while also significantly compressing the action (Phoenix is the longest volume in the series, but the shortest movie to date). Does that mean Order of the Phoenix itself could've stood a little editing? Perhaps, but in the end, I'm glad it didn't get any. The more Harry the better, as far as I'm concerned.
Overall, an excellent book, a great step in the series, full of excellent details adding to the overall story.