Books We Force on Our Friends: Shit Gets Real Edition

Cover for The Goblet of Fire, US Version

In today’s entry of Books We Force on our Friends, Princess Consuela and Anastasia Beaverhausen decided to tackle the dictionary-sized Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Bloomsbury and Scholastic 2000) together. Let’s join their conversation, already in progress:

Princess Consuela: There is a LOT of stuff packed into Goblet of Fire – the Quidditch World Cup, Hermione’s obsession with the liberation of House Elves (aka SPEW), Rita Skeeter’s tabloid journalism, and, the glue that holds this brick of a book together, the Triwizard Tournament.

Anastasia Beaverhausen: It’s almost overwhelming, the amount of info you get in this book. And it starts off with a bang – Voldie killing Frank Bryce after he overhears (and lets us know) what Voldie has been up to.

PC: Yes, I always feel so sorry for poor Frank Bryce. The whole town blames him for murders he didn’t commit, and then he is murdered, too, trying to do the right thing. The murders of innocent bystanders bookend this book – you start with Frank Bryce’s and end with Cedric Diggory’s. “Kill the spare” are some of the most chilling words spoken in the entire series. *shivers*

AB: Totally agree. This is the first time we’ve seen murder in the series and the first time we truly see Voldemort’s disdain for human life. This made me think about the huge range of tones that this book handles. We go from one extreme of murder and horror elements – the entire graveyard scene, especially when Wormtail cuts off his hand HELLO – to the polar opposite of all the adolescent drama of first crushes and the Yule Ball.

PC: Yeah, the whole book is really an emotional roller coaster, and it would be even without the whole He’s Baaaa-aaaack graveyard scene. It’s hard to be 14. I am glad that I never have to be 14 again. Poor Harry has to find a date to the Yule Ball, and it’s such a daunting task that he decides he’d rather fight the dragon again. I LOVE how perplexed he is when he notices that girls travel in packs and he can’t figure out how to get one alone long enough to ask her to be his date. And poor Ron, succumbing to Fleur’s veela charms. Little does he know that she will be his sister-in-law one day, and he’ll never be able to put that awful story behind him.

AB: The sheer awkwardness of practically everyone’s Yule Ball invite makes me want to read with my hands over my eyes. Which would be impossible, but you know what I mean. Harry asking Cho in one giant word KILLED me. And we get confident Hermione, who is my very favorite. Who is irritated that her studying time is being interrupted by a boy. LOVE. Ok, moving on. I’ve heard folks complain that there is too much packed into this book. Thoughts?

PC: Well, it’s a big book. If you’re going to commit to 700+ pages, you expect a lot. There is definitely enough going on to keep you interested and on your toes the entire time you’re reading it. “Action-packed” is putting it lightly. I think that it being so full is part of what keeps you from picking up on all of the clues about Moody’s real identity and The Secret Beetle Life of Rita Skeeter, and it adds to the surprise at the end when everything comes to light. Let’s talk about the Rise of Percy for a minute, too. He’s always been an ambitious git, but his ruthless side really comes to the forefront in this one. While I hate that his new job is making him into more of a pompous ass than ever, it does lead to one of my favorite lines in the entire series: “Percy wouldn’t recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby’s tea cozy.” This line never fails to make me laugh out loud. Not a smile or quirk of the lip, but a full-on snicker of pure joy.  Thanks, Ron.  I needed that.

AB: JK has a really sly sense of humor. She gives her characters such great one liners – I mean, Fred and George have lines in almost every book that make me snort with laughter. And Percy, bless his bossy, toe-the-company-line heart. He irritated the crap out of me in this book, but in a logical way, if you know what I mean. His story arc makes perfect sense with how JK set him up in previous books. “Excuse me, I’m Head Boy!” Git.

PC: Bill is a nice contrast within the family. He is cool. Not as awesome as Charlie (why don’t we see more of him??), but still cool. Obviously: he has long hair, a fang earring, and dragon hide boots. How could such a person not be rockstar awesome? He was also a prefect and Head Boy, and he turned out fine. No wonder Ron has such a complex. Bill & Charlie are super cool, Fred and George are hilarious and popular, Percy is successful, even though he is a prat. Poor Ron. He’s my favorite member of the trio, and not just because he uttered my aforementioned favorite line. I adore him, and I want him to get what he wants, which is why I was never a Harry/Hermione shipper. However, I do love that Hermione makes him jealous with Viktor Krum. Good on ya, Herm-own-ninny.

AB: I do adore Ron, though at times he can be so pigheaded and stubborn I want to smack him. I think Hermione will always be my favorite because I identify with her so strongly, though I was never a Harry/Hermione shipper either. I saw pretty clearly how JK was setting up her and Ron, especially in this book. Their argument in the common room after the ball was so wonderfully high school melodrama. I do wish we had gotten more time with Charlie and Bill. You don’t see many “young professional” wizards in the series, folks who have just left school and are establishing themselves in the world. This makes sense for where the series is set, but I would love to have a story about someone in that phase of their life *cough*Maurader era*cough*.

PC: I do love Sirius. He shows some devotion to Harry, living on rats in a cave. Although, at the end when you find out that he’s living there at Dumbledore’s suggestion, I wonder why Dumbledore hasn’t been sending him food all along. He’s a thoughtful person, known for considering all angles and eventualities – you’d think it would have dawned on him that food would be hard to come by. It’s not like the house elves are selfish with food.  They might even have been able to magic some over to him.  Speaking of house elves, they’re an enigmatic bunch, and their lot in life makes quite the subplot for this book.

AB: Yeah, there are lots of little details like Sirius’ lack of food that make you stop and go, huh?. The whole system of protection that the Sorceror’s Stone has in the first book – that all seemed really flimsy to me, that any adult wizard should be able to pass those tests. And house elves – I have to admit, it took me a long time to wrap my head around what JK was trying to do with them, the point she was trying to make. You had the whole gambit of attitudes toward them just within the trio: Ron goes with the status quo, that their race is meant to serve; Harry sees the individuals, but seems ambivalent about their status; and Hermione, who sees them all as individuals and fights for their rights. I think in this book, JK uses Winky to try to show another side of elves, more individual creatures.

PC: Winky is such a pitiful creature. She feels like a member of the Crouch family, and so she is understandably distraught when Mr. Crouch fires her – she doesn’t see her service to the family as just a job. He shows that he doesn’t care about her like she does him, and she can’t get past it. It’s one of many examples of family themes – they both come together and divide pretty regularly throughout the book. Cedric Diggory’s father is desperate to get some attention for his son. The Weasleys show up as Harry’s family on the day of the third task, just before he sees the ghosts of his parents. Voldemort’s family of Death Eaters reunites in the graveyard after he resurrects. SO MANY LAYERS.

AB: It’s rare for JK to introduce an element or theme and NOT give it multiple layers. It’s what makes these books so deliciously rich, like chocolate trifle. A good example is Cedric as such an intriguing foil to Harry in this book, because he seems to be everything Harry wishes he could be – handsome, popular, loving family, Quidditch champion, genuinely nice and standup guy. I think that gives his death more impact, the Golden Boy who in any other book would have saved the day.

PC: Speaking of Cedric, we should probably mention the Triwizard Tournament, since 2/3 of the book centers around it. The wizarding world stopped having the tournament because so many of the champions died, so when they brought it back, they took extra precautions so that it would be safer, that last “r” being key here. Cedric signed up for the tournament knowing that participation could kill him. It’s heartbreaking to realize that he came so close to surviving it, especially since the third task should have been the safest, given the amount of prep time they had and the teachers patrolling the perimeter of the maze.

AB: The whole outcome of the tournament is in complete doubt because there was so much meddling by Not!Moody, probably even more than we know about. But yeah, Cedric definitely would have survived and probably could have won the whole thing. I think this is the first time in the series we got one of those emotional gut punches that JK does so brutally and well, preparing us for the ones with even higher stakes in later books.

PC: It makes me both teary and rage-y to think about it. EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER. Gah. Cleansing breath. Ahhhh. Let’s change the subject to something that doesn’t make me feel stabby. Fleur & Krum – any thoughts?

AB: I like that both of them aren’t particulary likeable at first, but you see them grow into full characters – Fleur with her sister and Krum with Hermione. As the only girl in the tournament, I do wish JK had let her be a stronger contestant, winning or leading at least one section, since the others did. Girl power! I actually felt kind of bad for Krum, because he’s obviously not happy at Durmstrang and I wonder if there were any lingering effects/social ostracism for his acts in the maze, even if he was Imperiused.

PC: I hope not. I think it’s adorable that he’s an international Quidditch star, and he’s too shy to ask Hermione out. Honestly, though, I don’t know that his attack on Cedric is common knowledge. I don’t think that the spectators could see inside the maze – otherwise, a teacher would have come running at this point and the crisis would have been averted.  While this wouldn’t have been the best choice plot-wise, it would have been good for my emotional well-being.  However, Not!Moody with his stolen magical eye is the only one who can see through the hedges, and he gets away with murder.

AB: Good point. Though getting back to his shyness, Krum’s duck-footedness and rounded back surely contribute, as he must be hyperaware of them since JK mentions them several times. When she finds a character trait she likes, she drives it home (hey, did you know Umbridge looks like a toad?) Anyway, overall, I really like this book. I actually have an extra copy that lives in my car, in case I get stuck somewhere with nothing to read. There is always a section that is worth a reread.

PC: This one is a little dangerous to keep in your car as backup reading! The end of this book is when the series really kicks into gear for me – you begin to realize what the good guys are up against, especially when Cornelius Fudge reveals himself to be a blithering idiot with a staggering capacity for denial.  His little performance at the end makes me want to punch him in the face for being stupid and useless. I always have to continue with the series when I finish this one. So much is at stake. I know when I start reading GoF that I’m committing myself to reread at least through Order of the Phoenix, and often more.

AB: Exactly – this book starts the chain reaction. Voldemort is back, the war has begun and there are going to be casualties. Man, I literally just got goosebumps typing that – yes, I am that much of a dork.

PC: Let’s don’t talk about the casualties. I know who they are, and I get all choked up just thinking about it. I might be too emotionally invested in these characters. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get my copy of OotP. There’s no point in stopping here. We’re just getting to the good part.

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About Princess Consuela

Princess Consuela dropped the Bananahammock after her husband Crap Bag defined that word for her. She has excellent insight about Wuthering Heights, and she'll embarrass you in front of everyone if you pass said insight off as your own. She also lent her name as a good luck charm to Susanne Sugarbaker in an Atlantic City casino when Susanne needed money to get revenge on swindler Reggie Mac Dawson. View all posts by Princess Consuela

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