Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Friday, May 27, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by J.K. Rowling

**If you haven’t read this book, just skip this review. I tried to avoid spoilers, but there is just too much to talk about.**

The fifth installment of the Harry Potter series gets a lot of flack. Harry whines too much, it’s too long, too much Quidditch, Hagrid and Dumbledore are almost completely absent from the first 2/3 of the book, etc. I don’t disagree with these assessments and it’s always been one of my least favorite books of the series, (my least favorite HP novel is still one of my favorite books).

However, while re-reading it this month I’ve developed a real appreciation for Rowling’s portrayal of women. Clover’s post at Fluttering Butterflies had me thinking about the great female characters in Harry Potter and I feel like the Order of the Phoenix is the pinnacle example of this.

Not only do we have favorite characters like the brilliant Hermione, who’s wonderful in every book, but we meet many of the best women for the first time. Both Luna Lovegood, so wonderfully comfortable in her own skin, and Tonks, a young auror, equal parts friendly and clumsy, are newcomers in this novel. We also get to know Mrs. Weasley better. We learn how much she both cares for and fears for her family. She is fiercely protective of her loved ones.

Professor McGonagall is also an under-appreciated character. She has a steely reserve, and although she sometimes seems cold, she really loves the school and her students. Her undying loyalty to Dumbledore, in the harshest of circumstances, is inspiring. I loved how she stood up to Umbridge and told Harry she would help him become an auror if that’s what he wanted. She’s just wonderful.

We get to know Ginny better in this book as well. Instead of simply being the youngest Weasley and Ron’s little sister, she’s part of the story. She trains in Dumbledore’s Army and goes with the group to the Ministry of Magic in the end. She’s also protective of her friends, defending both Neville and Luna during this book.

Then there are the deliciously dark villains. We meet Bellatrix LeStrange, Voldemort’s devoted follower and Professor Umbridge, a sickly sweet atrocity, who believes the ends will always justify the means.

One thing I hadn’t thought about last time I read the series is Lupin’s loses. His three closet friends are all taken from him, first James, then Peter (so he thinks), and finally Sirius is taken to prison. Then he realizes Sirius is innocent and he gets him back, only to lose him again. Lupin is already a social outcast because he’s a werewolf. He finds three people who accept him for who he is, but ends up alone anyway. His life is one of the most tragic in the series and I’ve always had a soft spot for him.

A few things I'd forgotten about the fifth book: 

1) Mrs. Weasley’s greatest fear, when she’s trying to get rid of a boggart, is seeing her family members die. It’s heartbreaking to read that section and know who lives and dies in the final book.

2) We meet Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth for the first time. We don’t know who he is yet, but he’s mentioned as the barman at the Hog’s Head, “He was tall and thin and looked vaguely familiar.”

3) When a boy tries to go up the stairs to the girl’s dormitory they turn into a slide.

4) Dobby is the one who warns Harry that Umbridge is about to break into the D.A. meeting, proving once again what a loyal friend he is.

One hilarious line… "Enough – effing – owls –” Uncle Vernon.

Read for the Harry Potter Challenge hosted here.


Anonymous said...

This was my least favorite too, but upon re-reading, there is so much I forgot like you. I think for me, the best thing about it was Umbridge. She is just so awful, she made my stomach hurt. That is what character development is all about. (Sandy)

B said...

Ok I seriously need to reread this series. I started them when I was pretty young and now that I'm older I know there is a lot I don't remember. I know that I loved them, but I need to refresh myself as to why :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - She's such a wonderfully evil character. I couldn't hate her more.

Brenna - That's why I've been re-reading them. I knew I loved them, but it had been so long since I read them all. There were things that I couldn't remember whether they were from the book or just in the movies and that's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

I love the fifth book. I totally get why people don't like it, but I feel like Harry's anger is totally justified, considering everything that's happened to him. And the whole sequence in the Department of Mysteries is one of the best things in the entire series, in my opinion. Every time I read it, I get incredibly tense (until Dumbledore shows up, and then I relax completely), and I always, always start crying when Neville is so brave and fights the Death Eaters so ferociously.

Carrie K. said...

I just re-read this one via audio with my son, and the scene with Mrs. Weasley and the boggart had me in tears. Sob.

Jillian said...

You already know this isn't my "favorite" HP book, but I thought it was a very crucial part of the series. I thought it was the turning point of the whole thing pretty much, especially after how The Goblet of Fire ended (with Cedric Diggory and all)

Here, Rowling explores the other side of her story - we get to see the characters' struggles, as well as their background. We also get to see the dark side of the series.

I did hate Cho Chang so much here though - so annoying! Haha. But I fell in love with Luna Lovegood. In a way I kind of wanted her to end up with Harry. But then we also get to see hints of Ginny's true personality coming out.

Meytal Radzinski said...

Oh, the introduction to Aberforth drove me crazy for years. Just prior to the release of Deathly Hallows I loudly announced that if Rowling didn't reference why the bartender looked familiar, I would have a cow. Thankfully, there was no need for any cows to be had.

That's a wonderful point about the women in Order of the Phoenix. I always felt that in part thanks to its status as the largest of the books, it dealt with all the angst and annoyances that there wasn't time for anywhere else. Sure, it makes for mopey, whiny reading but Harry's 15 years old! When else were we expecting this to happen? I felt as though suddenly all the characters got a little deeper, a little more mature. Suddenly Neville wasn't just the hapless end of everyone's jokes. Suddenly Ginny wasn't just "the little sister". People grew and personalities settled into place. It may not have been wholly enjoyable, but there's no denying that it's still very good (for fans of the books, I suppose).

BookQuoter said...

This has my (probably everyone's)least favorite character- Dolores Umbridge.
I do not remember #3 either.
The best part of rereading is exemplified by your review. I like that this post highlighted how strong the Rowling's female characters are. Thanks.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

jennysbooks – I always just try to remember that he’s a teenage boy, of course he’s in a bad mood half the time. Re-reading the books has really made me develop such a love for Neville. I don’t think I appreciated him as much before.

Carrie K. - I know! Mrs. Weasley mothers everyone, but it’s because she loves them so much and it makes sense that her biggest fear would be losing them.

Jillian – It’s absolutely crucial. They all grow up so much in this book and sometimes growing up in painful. And yes, Chang is so annoying, which is why she doesn’t get to be in the list of great female characters.

Biblibio – I don’t think I noticed it too much before, but once you read book 7 you try to remember when else he is mentioned.

BookQuoter – People always talk about the great male characters, Harry, Dumbledore, Snape, etc., but the women are just as great!