Arriving at Hogwarts 25 years late | Jack Marshall's column

If you’d have asked me a month ago what I’d be doing in a month’s time, it would have taken me a fair few guesses to land on the answer ‘reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ in the shower. And yes, I said shower. Not bath, shower.

By Jack Marshall
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 4:55 am

Let’s rewind a month. I’m on a date and conversation has turned to books. I’m being playfully (I hope) bullied for my apparently paltry reading targets for 2022 when the subject of our favourite books comes up. My date mentions Harry Potter.

Harry Potter never gripped me as a kid. I never read the books, I was pretty ambivalent towards the films, and I regarded the people queuing up outside WH Smiths at midnight in full Hagrid cosplay ahead of a new release as confusingly zealous. But live and let live.

But, because of how utterly and completely ubiquitous the Harry Potter narrative was in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, I couldn’t help but be at least faintly familiar with the storylines and the characters. But that’s pretty much where it ended: Harry Potter was a very famous but innocuous concept to me.

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Magic: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Back to the date. I’m being met with wide-eyed incredulity after revealing that I’ve never read the books and that I’ve seen maybe five of the films. To have omitted such a venerated section of the literary canon, according to my date, immediately disqualifies me as a reader.

I’m unconvinced. These are, after all, children’s books written 25 years ago. But my date is steadfast - she re-read them just last year and they hold up. Fine. I promise to give them a go and my date offers me her copies so long as I don’t break the spines (a pet peeve of hers).

Hence why I’m reading in the shower. No matter how much I wanted not to like them and to have licence to be smug, I can’t lie - the books gripped me for some strange reason. It was the air of nostalgia coupled with the novel nature of reading them for the first time. They took me to a warm and fuzzy place.

Not to boast, but these kids’ books were easy to read, too, so I flew through them. Only two decades late to the party.