Uncovering History Through Fiction: My Book(Spoilery) Review of Day After Night by Anita Diamant

I was in an absolute state of glee upon randomly opening up this book to its phenomenal epigraph:Day After Night rebbe nachman- bookspoils

This exact phrase is one my mom reads to my sister and I every Shabbat; we know and recite it by heart. I always craved to see it written somewhere as an opening quote, so this was like a personal wish coming true.

I started the first chapter with the tiniest of hesitation. I was thinking back on how impressed I was by the epigraph, and even the prologue captivated me, so surely the first chapter will be the hindrance. But as I read on, it’s to uncover an enchanting storyteller in Anita Diamant. It’s reading a book, knowing that you surely won’t regret doing so. It’s ending a chapter only to want more. This is an author who knows the power her writing holds and how to wield her magic pen. What a journey this book took me on.

Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than 200 prisoners from the Atlit internment camp – a prison for illegal immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast north of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp.

It’s the first book in a while that made me excited to read it during the week, stealing time here and there to dive in, instead of settling for a binge-read on Shabbat. Something about that epigraph and that masterful character building on the very first page (pictured below) made me stand still and reappraise what I was getting into. Day After Night- bookspoilsRounded characterization on page one means: nightmares we can only imagine. They hold so much sorrow in their young lives already. The “military-issue pillows that smell of disinfectant” that are the bare-minimum when compared to what they had growing up, but after all they’ve been through it’s a luxury. Set against the unmoving background of Atlit’s Detainee Camp ruled by the British military, this is a part in European Jewish history I personally hadn’t known of before.

“Everyone who is locked up in Atlit waits for an answer to the same questions: When will I get out of here? When will the past be over?”

I like reading historical fiction for the simple act of being educated on a topic completely unheard of before through a story. It humanizes history and makes me remember details long afterward. Like with Sarit Yishai-Levi’s The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, which delivered both on the historic events of those that tried to detain Jews from coming into Israel, as well as the many romances that still have me worked up. So much of the time period before the founding of the state of Israel holds me enthralled. I recently watched the 2017 film An Israeli Love Story that tackled similar issues in that time frame while residing on the kibbutz.

Following four young women, Day After Night starts with introspective and self-aware Tedi Pastore, who craves nothing more than to assimilate and forget all her horrible memories as soon as her brain lets up, though those memories will sneak up on you as soon as you let your defenses down. My heart connected to her instantly with her quiet nature and this brilliant phrase:

“She wondered if she could fill her head with enough Hebrew to crowd out her native Dutch.”

Yes; though when Dutch peaks its way back into your life down the road (sooner than you’d like), it’ll come flooding back. I feel this so deeply.

We leave her to follow Zorah Weitz, who’s quite the opposite with her scorn and quiet rage at her surroundings. So much of her anger is just, obviously, but because we arrive into her chapter coming from Tedi’s point of view, it became quite jarring to experience such a different tough-to-crack perspective. It became interesting to see how the author would weave their stories together to make Zorah a more multidimensional character. I never doubted for a minute that she wouldn’t succeed. Any author that can character build on the very first page of the first chapter has my full trust.

“She knew they were reluctant to tell their own stories because all of them began and ended with the same horrible question: Why was I spared?”

And Shayndel and Leonie whose specialties include daydreaming and people-watching. They invent stories in their head to escape from their current reality and remain sane under the heinous circumstances thrown their way. They grow close and cling onto each other as people that go through wartime experiences only can.

It’s interesting then to connect and reflect on their stories of coming to Israel to my own Aliyah and how I was more of a Zorah at the very beginning (this realization occurred while writing made me far more forgiving when reading her harsh words after): I felt so helpless with my surroundings and how these circumstances I was in weren’t even of my choice. There was just so much (too much) anger pent-up that I feel so sorry looking back to ten-year-old me. And so came the gradual change of coming to terms with your reality and quietly turning into a Tedi with wanting to forget as quickly as possible all the good and the bad on the tail end. I have the hardest time remembering stuff from the past now, which is why I’m so particular with writing everything down as soon as I complete reading or watching or listening anything.

“It was unspeakable, so they spoke of nothing.”

It makes for an interesting phenomenon when shedding those layers of European culture and reconnecting back to your own Jewish roots. It’s a loss of a comfortable layer and the growth of one that’s been waiting for generations. It’s realizing that the “loss” of your mother tongue isn’t your real mother tongue. The culture of “cold politeness” you’ve become accustomed to isn’t where your heart belongs (“leaving behind the whole poisoned graveyard that was Europe”). The warm connection between the people in our own homeland is one that cannot be replicated.

I felt this distinctly in the piercing moment when all the characters come together to light the candles and say the blessing for Rosh Hashanah, after years and years of hell on earth. The quiet strength echoed throughout this scene felt so real I could almost reach out and grasp it.

“Anschel lifted a cup above his head and glared around the room, waiting for others to do the same. Around each table, the men eyed each other and silently determined which one would stand for the blessing. As they raised their cups, he began, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe.” The piercing nasal drone of his voice held everyone in thrall at first, but then others joined, creating a baritone jumble of melodies and accents that conjured a congregation of absent fathers and grandfathers. Tears flowed as the goblets were emptied, but Tirzah gave them no time to mourn, banging the door open wide with a tray piled with golden loaves of challah. She was greeted with applause and chatter, which continued through the brief blessing for bread, which was passed and devoured.”

Something slipped over me in reading this that I couldn’t shake off. We’re alive. Our people lived through this hell and multiple others to make it to Israel. I won’t forget.

The one thing that remains alive in that moment is reciting the passages of the past, the same words they heard countless times before the war, only to quietly realize that here they are repeating it in the heart of Israel. Our prayers as a nation are the only thing keeping the past alive and our hope ablaze in the future.

And as much as Zorah resents these moments that bring on memories long repressed, I can only think of this truthful passage from David Bezmozgis’s Natasha and Other Stories“So what am I supposed to do, let the bastards win? Because who wins if a Jew doesn’t go to synagogue? I’ll tell you who: Hitler.”

With each new description in the book, I stop cold at how masterfully Anita Diamant constructs her characters. I personally enjoy exploring little individual moments that make up somebody’s life, and reading about the day-to-day in that unmoored timeline of 1945 through this group of lost individuals is riveting to revisit.

“It seemed impossible that these could be the same stars she had looked up at six months ago, impossible that she was seeing them through the same eyes.”

This had the potential to be a new favorite with all the elements I love in one: Jewish-Israeli characters, survivors arriving in Israel after the Holocaust which is rarely explored, the prime time of Zionism, and displacement. Day After Night operates on so many levels.

Plus, I’m a known fool for the name Noah (read: My Appreciation For the Name Noah in Old Men at Midnight by Chaim Potok), so Shayndel’s brother piqued my interest… Only to be crushed in this brutal reality of Polish antisemitism and pogroms. Lest anyone forget:

“The Poles had been just as monstrous as the Germans. The Nazis did not require her neighbors to spit on her family the day they were taken away. They had spit again when she returned, after the war, to see if anyone else had survived.”

The sad reality is that the Poles are already trying to erase history by making themselves seen as innocent and blame it all on the German Nazis. History will never fully wrap all the horrors and pogroms they inflicted upon the Jews.

On another note, here are some points I want to highlight:

  • The few hints of romance in here I came to appreciate because sometimes it’s a necessary component in feeling alive, feeling seen. This book drew the important distinction between realizing whether your feelings are for that particular individual and simply for the rush of hormones they provide. This phrase puts the idea together well:

“I guess I wanted to be in love with someone. But not him.”

This explains so much on settling for the wrong guy. And how we look into book-romances to project our own desires on the particular couple to get together. We seek that intoxicating rush of feeling without actually doing something that can hurt like being close with another human. It’s predictable, safe, and follows a script, unlike real life.

  • Throw all that away when it comes to Meyer Meyer Meyer, the boy who brings Zorah back from the brink of cynicism. I hung onto his every word. Something about his air of kind honesty left me laser focused on the task at hand: Seeing him interact with Zorah. Their dynamic was so full of promise. He’s the kind-hearted soldier with a sharing packet of Chesterfields, and she’s the rugged girl that loves to say no. I thought at first that the author was pulling us along with an exquisitely outdrawn slow-burn, and it did work at first because I nearly jumped like a cat when he finally arrived in a scene with Zorah after way too long.

“I never heard you sing before,” said a familiar voice at her ear.
Zorah did not turn around. Meyer moved closer and asked, “Did you miss me?”
“Only when I was dying for a smoke,” she said.
“I thought about you all the time,” said Meyer.”

Likewise. Also: why did this make my heart skip a beat?

“I wish I could send you cigarettes,” Meyer said, slipping a packet into her hand. “But they would only get stolen. Still, whenever you get a letter, you should know that I was thinking about sending a whole carton of Chesterfields. I am a romantic, right?”
Zorah fought the urge to face him, to wish him well, to say good-bye.
“Pray a little for my safety, will you, Zorah?” said Meyer. “I will kiss you good night wherever I am.”
Zorah heard him walk away and counted to thirty before she turned. He had reached the gate. Without turning or looking back, he raised his hand to wave. As though he knew she would be watching.”

He’s so damn charismatic.

You know Zorah has it bad when she starts talking to herself in his voice. “Worthy opponent or suitor?” I personally really enjoy seeing this switch happen in books like I mentioned in my review for The Great Alone. There’s something so powerful when you start viewing a person in a different light.

But I guess the author had other things in mind when it came to Meyer, since I can count on one hand the number of times he showed up after, and then never again till the epilogue that I’m not ready to discuss.. (I’m still in the stage of denial, as evidenced by my refusal to even write it down). And I’m too stubborn to let something as powerful as Zorah with Meyer dissipate simply like that. I wanted to see them T A L K deep into the night and share secrets and grow old together… And I got none of that.

  • Speaking of loose ends, there are so many that my mind is busy thinking over… What happens with Tirzah and Danny? Did the group of four ever reunite? WHAT ABOUT THE PICTURE?? Who’s the lucky man that married Shayndel? What happened to Lillian aka the running gag of the book with being put in her place by multiple people?

Like a movie, it ends on a group snapshot of the four young women that made this book shine with tiny inscriptions telling us where they all ended up. The epilogue really made the story feel so vividly real that I was tempted to look up the names of the characters, knowing full well that even if they were based on real woman their full names wouldn’t have been used… I JUST NEED THE PICTURE. I tried hunting for it on my own with zero results. The descriptions of it in the book feels too real. It’s these telling signs that tell the whole story of Day After Night. Like Shayndel and Leonie standing so close together in the photograph led the author to chronicle a close friendship in her mind. And the details of their matching white outfits in that shot then rings similarity in the story when people thought them to be the same even though on the outside they were opposites.

“Leonie and Shayndel grinned at each other, knowing these same girls sometimes called them “peas in a pod” and “the Siamese twins” even though they were a pair of contrasts, too.”

Taking notice of these telltale signs made me feel like a tiny Sherlock. First came the picture, then the story. And now I’m pretty desperate to uncover what came first. Does the picture even exist?

I’d had hoped to see them thrive after Atlit, but since it’s so real the end sequence bears too many loses to feel like closure. The epilogue in itself should’ve been more elaborated on, instead of dropping new information that I have no idea how to take in since the book is already over. All I can say is Tedi deserved to have seen that picture.

If you’re interested in buying Day After Night, just click on the image below to go through my Amazon Affiliate. I’ll make a small commission!


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Book Spoilery Review and Commentary on The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I initially tried reading THUG when it first emerged into the book world, but something about the constant pop-culture references in the first chapter threw me off. It felt too much the case of an author, who’s clearly not a young adult, writing teens by seeing their interactions online and thinking that’s how they talk naturally in real life… I can still enjoy teen dialogue without there being some intermediate for me to understand that they’re teens, i.e. inserting references that are popular today, which makes them outdated the second they hit the page. It’s like trying to include a vine into a book, which will lose steam in like two days, while the book takes MONTHS, if not years, to publish; the more you mention something that is on trend today, the sooner it’ll fade out. There’s always going to be something newer and better the following day.

Plus, Tumblr is not quite the platform for a dramatic unfollow. It’s also not THE hub for interactions the author makes it out to be. The number of times it’s mentioned, though, without even talking about Instagram, had me wondering if this was some paid promotion.

Regardless, I picked this book up again, courtesy of my local library holding a new movie tie-in edition of The Hate U Give. thug- bookspoils 1It seemed fitting, as well, what with the movie coming out soon, for me to read the book before watching the movie adaption for once, which, in retrospect, I haven’t done since The Fault in Our Stars came out in 2014 (though, at the time of reading I had no idea it was being turned into a movie… my issues with their kiss in the Anne Frank house is feature here). Or Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy that I recently reread and reviewed on my blog.

When The Hate U Give isn’t trying to appeal to “fellow kids,” this book gets it so right in the interactions, like coming out of a good episode of Insecure. The Carter’s ride-or-die family vibes make this book thrive.

The premise of THUG recounts an unflinching look into the traumatic aftermath of police brutality. Starr bears witness to the brutal actions against Khalil, the boy she grew up with and her best friend, older only by “five months, two weeks, and three days.” His last words were to check in on Starr. The subsequent PTSD and the slow path to find and trust the strength in her voice within the power of her community. Things are irrevocably changed by the end of chapter two.

Let’s recap the details:

    • The Q&A at the end of the movie tie-in book between author Angie Thomas, Amandla Stenberg who stars as Starr, and director George Tillman Jr. voiced it best by saying The Hate U Give is here for “people who didn’t know anything about Black Lives Matter or police brutality to walk in the shoes of Starr for a moment.” She offers a unique perspective not many get to see in mainstream media that can hopefully install empathy in unaware readers of the complexity at hand.

    • The white boyfriend, Chris, whose defining feature is his whiteness… There’s no point of development when it comes to him as a character or his year-long relationship with Starr. All we know is that he goes to school with her, plays basketball and has a type in women that falls somewhere between Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Amber Rose. *Clears throat* Firstly, how do you expect me to root for a relationship, especially one set in high-school, when there are essentially no scenes developing them as a couple? I mean, even something as basic as Starr’s reasoning behind choosing this stale boy as her boyfriend, other than her “Jordan fetish.” Like, why are you here boy? If his defining feature is set to be his whiteness then explore more of that aspect in their relationship. At some point, I was willing to settle for any scene with them simply talking about something deeper than the school cafeteria lunch, but instead of exploring the complex components that arise in their relationship, Starr’s like:

There are those promising moments where Starr goes “hmm, this is interesting to explore” but then IT’S NEVER EXPLORED. She always stops herself just before a deep revelation with Chris, and it’s beyond discouraging.

“But that moment he grabbed my hands and I flashed back to that night, it’s like I suddenly really, really realized that Chris is white. Just like One-Fifteen. And I know, I’m sitting here next to my white best friend, but it’s almost as if I’m giving Khalil, Daddy, Seven, and every other black guy in my life a big, loud “fuck you” by having a white boyfriend.
Chris didn’t pull us over, he didn’t shoot Khalil, but am I betraying who I am by dating him?
I need to figure this out.”

Narrator: It was never figured out.

Also: They never fully addressed the fact that after a year of dating Chris didn’t seem to mind all that much that he was hidden from the person whose opinion Starr cared most for, meaning that he wasn’t all that real to her without the approval of her dad. She was half a person with him, never her full self.

“God. Being two different people is so exhausting. I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it. As much as I say I don’t have to choose which Starr I am with Chris, maybe without realizing it, I have to an extent. Part of me feels like I can’t exist around people like him.”

This concept was such a missed opportunity to explore deeper. As well as:

“I try to forget that he has an entire floor as big as my house and hired help that looks like me.”

Chris always brushes her off with an “I don’t care,” but that comment dismisses so much of what’s important to Starr. Those things he “doesn’t care about” take up a majority of her life and the community around her. Their whole time together I just felt like I was watching Sam and Gabe’s relationship unfold from Dear White People.

Plus, Hailey’s callous comment to Starr (“What’s next? You want me to apologize because my ancestors were slave masters or something stupid?”) got me wondering whether interracial couples in America address slavery, especially with white Americans, or do they just low-key erase history by saying it was too long ago?

  • Their little relationship paled in comparison to Starr’s tight-knit family. Starr’s Dad truly hit the jackpot with Lisa Janae Carter. She and her mother, Adele, are the true stars of this family. I lived for those moments when they called family members out, and oh, Lisa breaking a name down never grew old on me.

“You not gon’ say hey to me, Adele?” Fo’ty Ounce asks. When he talks, it jumbled together like one long word.
“Hell nah, you old fool,” Nana says. The door slams behind her.”

  • Circling back to Dear White People, this spoken word by Reggie Green will make you stop cold; it has an all too fitting message:

This important moment parallels when Starr tells it all:

“You wish that more cops wouldn’t make assumptions about black people?” she clarifies.
“Right. This all happened because he”—I can’t say his name—“assumed that we were up to no good. Because we’re black and because of where we live. We were just two kids, minding our business, you know? His assumption killed Khalil. It could’ve killed me.”
A kick straight to the ribs.
“If Officer Cruise were sitting here,” Mrs. Carey says, “what would you say to him?”
I blink several times. My mouth waters, but I swallow. No way I’m gonna let myself cry or throw up from thinking about that man.
If he were sitting here, I don’t have enough Black Jesus in me to tell him I forgive him. Instead I’d probably punch him. Straight up.
But Ms. Ofrah says this interview is the way I fight. When you fight, you put yourself out there, not caring who you hurt or if you’ll get hurt.
So I throw one more blow, right at One-Fifteen.
“I’d ask him if he wished he shot me too.”

Bam.

  • On a different note, coming out of this after having reread Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, I was all onboard with the many Harry Potter references dropped throughout the book, like, it’s mentioned A LOT. You can tell the author’s a true fan with this simple phrase: “What’s going on? You’re Harry in Order of the Phoenix angry lately.”

The Harry Potter references were on top of their game, though, her dad’s theory might be the cherry on top:

“Daddy, you’re the worst person to watch Harry Potter with. The whole time you’re talking about”—I deepen my voice—“‘Why don’t they shoot that nigga Voldemort?’”
“Ay, it don’t make sense that in all them movies and books, nobody thought to shoot him.”
“If it’s not that,” Momma says, “you’re giving your ‘Harry Potter is about gangs’ theory.”
“It is!” he says.”

This made me roar with laughter.

Also, this:

“What we used to call ourselves? The Hood Trio. Tighter than—”
“The inside of Voldemort’s nose. We were so silly for that.”

These are the kind of scenes set to linger with you long after completing the book.

  • I did lose some of that initial enthusiasm with THUG when it settles to move the plot forward with: “I wanna wait until I don’t have any other choice.” There are so many points that get stilled from development simply till the characters have no other alternative, and it became a bit frustrating to read time and again. Most of Starr’s final decisions occur after experiencing something that she wants to put an end to, even though she always had the choice to do it beforehand.
  • The compelling point to Starr’s growth was realizing this quiet truth: “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” 

Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust, once strikingly said:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

This ends now.

“Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug.
He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died.
Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending.”

If you’re interested in buying The Hate U Give, just click on the image below to go through my Amazon Affiliate. I’ll make a small commission!

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Book (Spoilery) Review and Commentary on Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

“Parry Otter, the Chosen Boy Who — well — something of that sort.”

This reread of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince – the last book in my minimal book collection – came as a saving grace during the many (many) holidays of Tishri. The stillness that accompanies sitting with your own thoughts during the countless rest days is painstakingly growing on me, so I needed something to look forward to, other than the many family-talks speculating about what’s ahead.

I’m giving myself permission to sidetrack first into a bit of a backstory, given that this book did the same with its rather long “Previously on Harry Potter” starting point, catching the reader up on the 411.

Back in late 2014 – THE year I started reading Harry Potter for the first time and the same year I promised myself I’d finish the series – I made the hefty mistake of picking up the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, from the library on its own right before Hanukkah, meaning that the sequel wouldn’t be available for another week. I then dutifully devoured the fifth book by day two and convinced my mom that the only thing I wanted, nay needed, was the sequel, which I promptly completed in time to take the finale from the library.

(Spoilers: I finished the series with two days to spare of 2014 in which I also finished To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to provide me some of that lightheartedness, as I mention in my review.)

I personally had a rocky start with reading the series. The first book took me multiple times to pick up and complete; it took me months of what I usually read within a week. I remember now really getting into the series with the fourth and fifth book, though I can’t recall now which works better in my favor.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is probably my favorite because I’m a sucker for dreams and nightmares being interpreted and taken seriously. The minute you start paying attention that’s when you start seeing more clear signs that can easily give answers to your own personal situation.

This sixth book seemed promising to me, as well, because of the Pensieve and its many memories we dive into. This is the only way to do flashbacks… especially given the unbiased perspective to these unfolding events, like getting an introduction into Voldemort’s family line from someone employed by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and then slowly piecing together bits of information through the many reveals.

But before all that can happen, the book starts off where Harry feels most at peace: The Burrow. I love me some good ol’ family dynamics with the Weasleys (and being a united front against Phlegm Fleur).

“Well, all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry.”

Harry is slowly starting to view Ginny as a safe haven; she represents all good and safety in the world for Harry, which he desperately seeks with the upheaval that is his own life. I laughed when my mind associated Harry’s choice of Ginny Weasley with that scene from Parks and Rec with the Saperstein twins:

 

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince centers on the more obsessed-like state of Harry with Malfoy, Hermione sulking away from Won-Won, Roonil Wazlib making a mighty comeback, the frustration when no one believes Harry’s valid suspicions, and so much more which I feature below in my favorite points:

  • The sly insert when Slughorn dismisses Ron’s name with: “…after what happened to your poor friend Rupert.” Clearly, filming for the Harry Potter series was well underway.
  • This particular book in the series feels like the inspiration behind Baz and Simon in Fangirl (and Carry On) what with the slow-moving plot till the characters arrive onto school grounds, and the aforementioned nemesis-watching from afar and following their every move.

“Levi sat back, hugging the pillow again. “They are kind of gay, aren’t they? What with all the watching each other sleep … and the ignoring Penelope.”

I’m personally not into the whole Draco/Harry ship, given Draco literally smashed Harry’s face in just because (this ruthlessness is what’s so vivid in my mind, so much so that the hurt of that scene traveled through back four years when I first read it and I felt the exact same shock) and also the simple fact that Draco Malfoy is a terribly cruel character. Those types need to stray far, far from humans until they acquire some anger management tools. He’s basically a reincarnation of Snape (the only reason they get along) what with all the sulking and pettiness (Snape with Lily, and Draco with his need to acquire power). Just because you’ve marked a certain person/goal as “MINE” in your head doesn’t make it so it’s yours. So the author trying to make me feel sorry for either of them won’t work in my favor. Like, “Woe is me. All I want is the approval of the Dark Lord.”

It’s also the reason why I’m not rushing to reread the following book given the frustrations whenever an author dismisses the actions of an evil character, like Snape, for “Oh, Love…” You’ve painted your picture for the whole series, making us not only hate but despise Severus Snape, so you can’t just drop this pent-up anger with one scene in the seventh book. Snape “loving” (more like, marking his territory) a certain someone who chooses not to settle for him doesn’t justify his following actions, no matter what storyline tries to redeem him.

  • The one thing that really settled with me was when Harry and Dumbledore were discussing destiny and “the prophecy” and how it’s neither here nor there: Voldemort sculpted his own enemy, by choosing to believe that prophecy he molded you into his enemy. I listened to a lecture on the topic that voiced a similar idea that in order for there to be good in the world there needs to be evil to defeat.

“Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!’
Harry watched Dumbledore striding up and down in front of him, and thought. He thought of his mother, his father and Sirius. He thought of Cedric Diggory. He thought of all the terrible deeds he knew Lord Voldemort had done. A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing his throat.
‘I’d want him finished,’ said Harry quietly. ‘And I’d want to do it.’
‘Of course you would!’ cried Dumbledore. ‘You see, the prophecy does not mean you have to do anything! But the prophecy caused Lord Voldemort to mark you as his equal … in other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophecy! But Voldemort continues to set store by the prophecy. He will continue to hunt you … which makes it certain, really, that -‘
‘That one of us is going to end up killing the other,’ said Harry. ‘Yes.’”

  • The main plot-propelling point is circling around the Pensieve, which at the time of reading I found so fascinating and wondered what memories I would store away. However brilliant the first memory from Bob Ogden, sooner than later these flashbacks start feeling like a contrived set up for a grander plot-device, especially when Dumbledore speaks like he’s looking through a crystal ball; Professor Trelawney seems tame in comparison.

“Why?’ said Harry at once, looking up into Dumbledore’s face. ‘Why did he come back? Did you ever find out?’
‘I have ideas,’ said Dumbledore, ‘but no more than that.’
‘What ideas, sir?’
‘I shall tell you, Harry, when you have retrieved that memory from Professor Slughorn,’ said Dumbledore. ‘When you have that last piece of the jigsaw, everything will, I hope, be clear … to both of us.”

This was so defeating to read the first time, being held on a leash with the information that could be released, but on this reread, knowing what’s ahead, I could relax and take in all the suspense and foreshadowing.

  • It’s unfortunate, though, that the author deems all these important adult figures in Harry’s life valuable only long enough to serve him in the grand scheme of things. Children need adults to look up to for longer than a semester period. I noticed that even when I was having a good time reading, half-way through a thought would creep in to remind me that half of the characters wouldn’t survive this series… and then it felt somehow wrong to laugh at something they said.
  • Which leads me to discuss the one thing that I dreaded and put-off… Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince bookspoilsI’d forgotten that rereading Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince meant reliving this emotional trauma of a chapter all over again. I honestly can’t believe I got fooled twice into believing that Snape would come to heal Dumbledore. I was utterly and positively assured that when Severus Snape came running down towards Dumbledore it was to cure him of his wounds. My brain somehow managed to repress the memory of that scene and fooled me into believing the same damn thing I thought the very first time… Evidently, the events of this series have all mixed into one for me so that certain scenes from the last book I expect to show up in here. Though nothing prepared me for this line that broke everything:

‘I am not worried, Harry,’ said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. ‘I am with you.’

If nothing else, I’ll certainly miss his sage sayings:

‘Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right,’ said Hermione.

I commend the cover illustrator, Jonny Duddle, for taking one of the most painful moments in the book and creating such lively artwork out of it:

 

The illustration on the back cover, in particular, had me staring back and forth to take it all in: the tired eye-bags, the sullen face, the grip on his left arm. SO MUCH DETAIL.

And on that chipper note, I’ll conclude by saying that taking my time with this reread made the journey so worth it. Let me know in the comments below if there’s a particular favorite book in the series you’d want me to reread and review!

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