I’ve developed quite an attachment … to Harry Potter. I started reading JK Rowling’s blockbuster series with my son and didn’t expect to enjoy it every bit as much as he does. In order to space out the books and ensure I didn’t disappear entirely into the fantasy world of Hogwarts, I decided to read a different book in between each instalment. It seemed foolhardy, and perhaps a little neglectful, to immerse myself completely in the world of a young wizard while I had three children of my own who needed my care and attention.
I did not expect that, in between reads, I would miss Harry, Ron and Hermione so much. Every time Harry and his friends disembark from the train at the end of the book and head back to their own homes, I get a sinking feeling that aligns with Harry’s disappointment at returning to Privet Drive.
The world that JK Rowling has created is so convincing and comforting, despite the battles with Voldemort, disdainful Snape and malicious Malfoy, that it is difficult to leave it. After recently finishing book five, I’m worried about how bad it will be when I finally reach the end of the series. Perhaps that is why so many read and reread it, over and over.
I will definitely be a contender for what the Urban Dictionary has named PSD – post series depression, defined as “the sadness felt after reading or watching a really long series or story. The bitter feeling when you know the journey is over, but you don’t want it to end.”
The sadness of finishing a book or a series is something that I feel relatively often upon finishing a book in which I have enjoyed.
It is there when I get to the last page of family sagas that are long and immersive, during which it is possible to be welcomed into a culture and family, getting to know generations and their customs, frailties, senses of humour and eccentricities. Books of the kind include A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry. The characters that dwell in these books are real enough for their company to be missed when the story ends.
I certainly felt that familiar sadness after reading Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels. Ferrante wrote so convincingly of the lives and experiences of Lila and Leno, two girls who grew up as friends in a poor neighbourhood in Naples, it was almost addictive. As I raced towards the end of the series, wanting to know what became of the girls, I also felt a slight dread that their story would soon be over.
While I became attached to this adult literature, there is something else that makes reading Harry Potter as an adult so hard to let go of – it is the reminder of the sense of possibility that the fantasy created in the story offers; worlds that are magical and seductive, with giants, unicorns, goblins and ghosts. Mythical creatures such as centaurs and dragons are an everyday reality, and it seems like anything could be true and possible. It is a reminder of a time when this was the case with all things, from Santa to the Tooth Fairy.
Reading these books took me back to this time of imagination and creativity, far from a more rational world, with its everyday realities of stacking the dishwasher, completing projects on time and returning phone calls.
I remember feeling the same way after finishing Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair series as a child. It was almost as if I no longer had entry to a place that I had discovered and loved, where I had felt at home with strange and kind creatures, battling against enemies that had no change of prevailing over Moonface, Silky and The Saucepan Man.
In the case of Enid Blyton’s books, I have enjoyed having the opportunity to revisit these magical places as if for the first time when reading them to my children. In reading these books again 20 years later, it has been a joy to revisit the fictional places and people I loved so much during my childhood.
And perhaps that will also be the way I tackle my post-Potter depression when I finish the final two books. After all, I have two more children to share the books with, and to share in their joy as they discover this extraordinary world.
Ultimately, the sadness of finishing a series like Harry Potter is not all bad – there is the bittersweet knowledge that you have been there, and it was wonderful. It is a bit like visiting a beautiful Mediterranean village where you will never live; it is a joy to visit, and there is always the possibility of returning, albeit temporarily, in the future. So enjoy it while you’re there, and the best cure for PSD is starting a new series.