Now, I haven't cried while reading in a long time now. Truth be told, there are maybe five books in the world that made me cry. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the last one (that scene in the graveyard near the end where the spirits of Harry's parents and Voldemort's victims appear just did my head in!).
So it was a bit to my astonishment (though I should have expected it) that I found tears rolling down my cheeks when I was feverishly finishing up the final installment in this most excellent series, on Thursday night.
D had long gone to sleep, and I carried on reading maniacally till past midnight, trying not to turn the pages too loudly.
What can I say? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows lives up to the hype. It is a most original and satisfying end to the epic series, which started out innocently humble, with the 11-year old Harry first finding out he was a wizard and going to Hogwarts. Since the first book, the series has grown gradually darker, with political undertones and rather frightening references to Nazi Germany.
Most of the last book is set outside the confines of Hogwarts, and it's only when Harry and his friends (I'm not giving away any details!) start wandering the wider world (from cities to countryside), does one appreciate how comforting the presence of Hogwarts was. It's as if the school itself was a much-loved character. With our beloved characters in the wild literally, things get a lot more (pardon the pun) hairy!
Indeed, with Harry and gang out to face the elements, the tale takes on a more epic, adult scope, very much channeling the Fellowship's journey in The Lord of the Rings. Like in LOTR, the world of Harry Potter contains absolute evil (Voldemort and Sauron do not display any humanistic attributes like compassion and desire absolute power), and a motley crew of folk who would fight the dark side (anyone thinks the Weasleys could have been Hobbits in previous lives?). There are also those who are struggling with their weaknesses and temptations (Boromir vis a vis Severus Snape, Gollum vs Kreacher).
But it is in the journey that Harry and friends undertake in this final book that is so reminiscent of the trials that the Fellowship have to endure in their bid to destroy the ring. Like Frodo and Sam, Harry and his friends embark on their portentous task, in the same vacuum that the hobbits did, while around them the other groups who resist Voldemort's reign are going about their own ways to rally support. Neither knows how each other is doing - and it is in this unknowing that the tension plays out.
Also, the many mysteries raised from the previous six books are resolved very satisfyingly.
How does it all end? Who or what are the Deathly Hallows? Did Dumbledore really die? Tell us once and for all, is Snape good or evil? Do Harry and Ginny get together? Ron and Hermione? And yes, most importantly, is Voldemort vanquished in the end?
Shan't spoil it for you. Believe the hype. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is worth every penny of the inflated price of the hardcover novel.
PS: Now that I've mentioned it, from hazy memory, these are the books that made me cry:
1. Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
2. The Fionavar Tapestry (The Darkest Road) by Guy Gavriel Kay
3. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
4. Toothpick (this random book I read in my teens about a boy's friendship with a girl suffering from cystic fybrosis, of all things!)
5. Possession by A S Byatt
6. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
OK, so maybe there are more than five. But these are the ones I remember.