I said a few days ago that I’d read a lot less because of a ‘distraction’ and that I’d tell you what it was later. So later is now.
You may be surprised to learn that I was never a particularly big Harry Potter fan. I gave up a couple of times on the early books. I started reading them again earlier this year because M. is a huge fan and it gave us something to discuss. So back in May I decided to pre-order Deathly Hallows from Amazon because I could save money that way. I imagined at the time that I’d be quite happy to read it a few days or weeks after it came out – not being such a huge fan.
Once I decided to do the re-read, and got into it, I started to feel that I wanted to find out how it ends as soon as I could. Since I’d pre-ordered so early I figured I’d get my copy at least the release day i.e. today (which I did – the postman woke me up, despite the fact that I’m sure it would have fit, just, through the letter box). However I wondered whether it would get leaked and make its way online.I looked around a couple of weeks ago and sure enough found documents claiming to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – however you only had to read it for a couple of paragraphs before realising it was fanfic. Not particularly well-written fanfic. Bad spelling and grammar, the wrong ‘voice’ for the characters and an obsession with sex. Still every few days I kept checking. I kept on finding the same document.
Then a few days ago I came across a series of images, individually photographed pages (complete with someone’s fingers at the bottom holding the book open). The thing was it had the right cover, it was a proper bound book and it had professional-quality illustrations (which the US copies do). I was convinced it was genuine and started reading. It was slow going as it wasn’t all easily legible (or at all in some cases). I read a couple of chapters and started to doubt. It was well written but the style didn’t feel like Rowling. So I googled “fake harry potter book” or something and found stories about possible leaks. The publishers were saying “don’t believe what you read online” – well they would wouldn’t they? On the other hand maybe they were referring to fanfic like the first document. One article pointed out that the cover, the dust jacket, was sellotaped to the book and wasn’t this a bit suspicious? I went back and checked and so it was. I grasped this straw and chose to believe the photos were an elaborate fake – perhaps a deliberate one by the publishers – and went back to reading HBP.
That was the distraction. Reading that cost me time reading HBP.
The dilemma came when I read a post on the ship about the photos – “yes it starts off not sounding like Rowling but then it does later”. Now I started to doubt my doubts. I read a couple more chapters. It was hard to tell. By the nature of the story it didn’t follow the pattern of earlier books so maybe it was that making it feel different. It was darker in tone because that’s where the story was at. HBP has a lot of ‘romcom’ stuff in it which is quite different from any of the other books. Now I wasn’t sure what was real.
That in itself wasn’t the dilemma. By this stage I wanted to have book 7 there to read once I’d finished book 6. i.e. Friday night not saturday morning. I wondered if my pre-ordered copy might get here a day early. It had happened in the past but they were making efforts not to do so again. Plus I couldn’t rely on it. On the other hand if my ‘photos’ version was real I could just read that until the paper copy turned up. What to do?
The decision was this – M. who was dressing up, along with her sister, and going to queue to buy the book just after midnight. I told her the first line – no spoilers in that. She would text me once she had the book and confirm it was the same or not. If not, I’d pop down to the 24hour Tescos and get a copy.
It didn’t quite work out that simple. Firstly I was low on food supplies any way. If I was staying up to read I fancied having some nice snacks. So began to think I’d go to Tescos anyway. I decided that if I finished HBP before M texted I’d go down there and do the checking thing myself. I finished HBP at 12:10. I got down to Tescos by about 12:20. I heard a manager-type bloke telling someone that they’d have another 200 copies in a few minutes. A few minutes later they had more copies – and a huge queue, most of whom had receipts – presumably they’d pre-ordered, or at least pre-paid a few minutes before.
So it wasn’t a simply question of wandering along, picking up a book and flicking through a few pages. I’d have to find someone who’d just bought one, go up to them and ask them “excuse me does the first chapter start like this…”. I wasn’t going to do that, I’d feel like a berk. So I went and bought food. During which time – around 12:45 – M rang me. She’d queued since 10:30 and had only just got a copy. It was the same she said. We chatted briefly and then I went home.
So I read my ‘photos’ version – though actually by now I had a version with the same text as a text PDF document – someone had transcribed it (including, somehow, very blurry pages). I read til about 5am and then went to bed. Got woken up by the postman as I said and then went back to bed. Got up an hour or so ago and will start reading again in a moment.