Around this time last year, two of my girlfriends mentioned that they were listening to audiobook recordings of Harry Potter. I was blown away by the very notion of such a thing. I read Harry Potter obsessively from the ages of 10 to 18 and then hardly touched the series for nearly seven years. However, last year I immediately got my hands on a copy of the audiobooks, loaded them onto my iPhone and got pulled into the most magical place I’ve every visited.
There is something about Fry’s careful intonation, thrilling narration and impeccable dialogue-delivery that brings the world of Harry Potter to life for me in a way that nothing else has.
I’ll always have a soft spot for the Harry Potter movies, but for me, they are generally a disappointment. There are just so many little moments in the books that (understandably) never made it to film, but are still sorely missed. I would have LOVED to see Uncle Vernon’s grumpy commute to work that opens Philosopher’s Stone the de-gnoming in Chamber of Secrets, the Doxycide scene in Order of the Phoenix, meals at Hogwarts and The Burrow, countless exposition scenes… the list goes on.
Stephen Fry’s rendition of the Harry Potter novels makes up for everything the movies missed. I particularly love Fry’s dialogue – of course J.K. Rowling writes dialogue very well – but Fry’s narration really does it justice. The dynamic between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, so glossed over in the movies, jumps out of the speakers as Fry delivers such seamless exchanges between the trio that you can’t help but forget that you’re listening to one person. Ron’s exasperation at anything that’s unfamiliar, Hermione’s loftiness, impatience and intelligence, Harry’s reckless curiosity and (mercifully) even his vulnerability, all come through in Fry’s impeccable performance.
Aside from the the three leads, it is Fry’s vocalization of the house elves that most sticks out in my memory. While Dobby was portrayed brilliantly in the Harry Potter movies I don’t think he was given quite enough screen time. We also never meet Winky or hear Kreacher’s (frankly bad ass) backstory, nor do we ever venture into Hokey’s memory on screen. All four house elves with speaking roles in the books play critical roles in helping Harry get vital information needed to destroy Voldemort. Stephen Fry’s narration does the house elves justice, and that is sweetly satisfying. Shunted by the Wizarding World and underrepresented by Hollywood, it’s great to see these magical creatures get strong (and often adorable) voices of their own.
It would behoove any Harry Potter fan, diehard or otherwise, to relive the books, whether for the second or twentieth time, through Stephen Fry’s magnificent rendition. Where and how you can buy the audiobooks depends on your region, but a little bit of googling can help you get your hands on a suitable copy easily enough.