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Harry: A History | Melissa Anelli | Review

Harry: A History chronicles the birth and evolution of the Harry Potter book series, the phenomenon and fan culture that surrounded it.

Narrated through the eyes of Melissa Anelli, journalist and now the webmistress of one of the biggest Harry Potter fansites in the world - The Leaky Cauldron - the book opens with a prologue of her and many of her close friends affiliated with Potter and the fandom, finding out about the release date of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

In the subsequent chapters Melissa details not only her journey to discovering the series as an unemployed graduate, post 9/11, working an unfulfilling journalism job, but that of other facets of the fandom - of which there are dozens - the publishing teams behind the book series and JK Rowling herself.

The timeline extends as far back to detail how the Harry Potter series was picked up by Bloomsbury, the initial release of Philosopher's Stone, and how the book was then taken across to Scholastic to market to the North American market. Anelli also details the history of the earliest Harry Potter fansites, blogs, fanfiction and Rowling's first interactions with the fan community and fame.

The story of the Harry Potter fandom is a surprising roller-coaster ride of legal battles - known as the Potter Wars, where Warner Bros tried suing teenagers running Potter websites for copyright infringement, stories of book burning, the infamous evangelical Christian Laura Mallory (and her quest to get the series banned from public libraries due to it's supposed pagan influence on children) and - of course - shipping wars!

It's not all bad though, there are heartwarming stories of how the earliest fan communities helped people find friends who loved something as much as they did; how Wizard Rock lead the way to hundreds of amateur musicians to realise their dreams of playing to thousands of people; and how the series inspired writers and artists around the world to create.


So what's my verdict?

If anything, if you were remember buying your copy of Deathly Hallows at midnight, reading 'Harry' will leave you with a feeling of nostalgia. Arguably, Harry: A History captures a time in literary and publishing that will never happen again. For those of us who are fans - such as myself - who perhaps simply watched from the sidelines at the time, the book fills in the gaps of where we missed out or simply details parts of the fan community you may never have heard of.

I've seen many reviewers criticizing the fact that this feels like too much of Anelli's own story than that of the fandom's, but for me that's part of the charm of the book. It would be impossible to capture every fan's personal story and journey with the Harry Potter series, but Melissa does a good job of including the stories of dozens of others from around the fandom. There's also the fact that Melissa's story is both interesting and remarkably unique in itself. Her position as webmistress means she's seen every facet of and experience the biggest moments of the Harry Potter fan community's history. So what better person to write a book about it?

All in all, Harry: A History really does pack a punch covering a truly unique point in literary history. Even for those who aren't - gasp - Harry Potter fans, the insight Melissa provides into the publishing process and the finer details of fan culture and popular culture is fascinating. And for die-hard Potter fans? Tissues at the ready, the anecdotes from people post-Potter may leave you a little weepy. Not to mention proud that you were part of something really special. 

Reading soundtrack:

To Have A Home: A Very Potter Sequel soundtrack; Accio Deathly Hallows: Hank Green; I Am A Wizard: Harry & the Potters; Meet Me At King's Cross: Alex Carpenter; End Of An Era: Oliver Boyd & The Rememberalls;

For lovers of

Harry Potter - duh - and popular culture enthusiasts

This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.
*image (c)Ria Cagampang

1 comment

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. Can't wait to hear all about your LeakyCon adventures too! x


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