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on April 11, 2003
Up till 'Charmed', books about HP have been (1) diatribes against the books due to the dark magic therein, (2) defenses against type 1, and (3) analyses of HP as literature. In types 1 and 2, the various authors usually tell the reader what his or her conclusion should be.
This book takes a different approach, one of positive analysis with thoughtful conclusions -- but not forcing those conclusions down the reader's throat. It is extremely well written -- and is as readable and enjoyable as the HP books themselves.
'A Charmed Life' is divided into 5 long chapters, plus a shorter 6th with conclusions, and the long chapters are helpfully broken by mid-chapter headings. These chapters give an indepth look at some of Rowling's favorite issues, such as:
(1) actions have consequences,
(2) beware of the deceitfulness of appearances [a major lesson in LOTR],
(3) the target audience [first, JKR herself; second, those that like an exciting mystery], and I might add parenthetically, when Jo Rowling is interviewed, she constantly insists that her books are written for older teens and adults.
(4) the world view -- what you see is not all there is, [helpful to the Christian]
(5) the complicatedness of the moral world -- when things aren't exactly black and white,
and (6) periodic comparisons with 'The Chronicles of Narnia', LOTR, and Lewis Carroll's works.
Bridger looks at the issues of faith, fact, and truth, as portrayed by Jo Rowling, and finds much that is compatable to the way Christians are to think and believe.
'Charmed' is a helpful book to those who want to think carefully about these things.
To those who like their conclusions given to them, it is not so helpful.
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2003
Because simple words on paper have in the past led to just about every major manmade disaster since words were put on paper, as people actually respond to the inherent philosophy or message that is part of every text, intended or not, it is always worthwhile to spend some time analyzing those works which have become popular.
This book by Francis Bridger is one of the best of the bunch of books seeking to look more deeply at the world of Harry Potter. Instead of arguing the specifics of the magic or apparent 'occult' Bridger takes a different path showing how Rowling skillfully weaves a tale in the fine tradition of British literature, using themes, images, allusions, etc. throughout her books which can be found in a great deal of writings written by those who call the British Isles home.
We in America, however, love practicality, have a hard time getting literary methods, and get confused, or angry, when our sensibilities are apparently attacked by terminology. Rowling, rather than endorsing any sort of scandalous occultism, is instead writing a tale of great heroism, discovery, and even spirituality which uses 'magical' themes to point to deeper truths, truths which are inherent in a Christian understanding of the world. Before we Christians attack the use of the word magic in these great texts, we must first attend to these texts as literature, and must learn how to understand how to read all of Potter's tales, present and future, in the context of a great tradition of fantasy writings.
Yes, these books are rousing tales but any book which creates the kind of sensation as these must also be speaking deeply to our present society. Bridger explains these deeper truths and messages in their appropriate context, and makes re-reading Potter that much more enjoyable and worthwhile. Plus, he is a very engaging author himself, whose nonfiction prose is almost as engaging as Rowling's.
This is a very fair, erudite, interesting study of what is arguably the most influential literature of this generation. Being spiritual does not mean we can turn off our minds, blindly accepting what various gurus tell us to believe. Nor is christophobia a reason to deny the importance of studying great literature, at all the levels which makes great literature great.
If you are interested at all in the Potter phenomenon this is the one book, besides Rowling's, you should get. No, this book may not interest everyone, and those who rate this present book low without reading it themselves are guilty of the same ignorant prattle which afflicts many of those in the Christian world. We all can and should think, and should discuss intelligently cultural issues before us. Bridger aids immensely and succinctly in this particular discussion.
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on January 2, 2003
This book is extremely well written. It's insights can appeal to non-Christaians as well as Christians - particualrly the chapters on morality and metaphysics. He sites CS Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr., Interviews with JK Rowling, the Odyssey, the Bible, etc. and has a way of capturing complicated philosophical ideas in just a few words.
This book is more of a moral philosophy book on Harry Potter than a Christian philosophy book. For those looking for proof that Harry Potter is as Christian as the Narnia books, this book may not suffice 100% and the author does not pretend that it should. Bridger rather opens the reader's minds to ideas surrounding the books and their place within a Christian/moral/spiritual understanding of reality.
If you don't want to dig deeper into the meaning behind Rowling's masterpieces, this is clearly not the book for you. Harry Potter can be enjoyed on many different levels. For some people, digging deeper "ruins" the excitement and the effect of Rowling's creativity. For me and many others, digging deeper adds an even more magical (and truthful) dimension to Harry Potter.
Bridger assumes that the reader has read all four books and freely discusses the endings and surprises. Don't read this until you've read the first four Potter books.
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on September 26, 2002
It is extremely refreshing to get a positive Christian viewpoint on Harry Potter! Bridger provides us with fantastic new insights into the
Potter series! I understand there may be a controversy as to whether or not Christians should read, or allow their kids to read, Harry Potter. Bridger sets the record straight once and for all!
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on February 28, 2007
First of all, let me say that I was, no pun intended, thoroughly charmed by Mr. Bridger himself. From the whimsical image of him proudly reading the books with the brightly colored covers (as opposed to the more sober "grown-up" covers) to his quite reasonable desire to read the books himself before having a knee-jerk reaction to them, from his playful use of language to his sense of taking things seriously enough to know that you shouldn't take some things too seriously, he reminded me strongly of another likeable, wise-grandfatherly figure.

The book itself is a gem. At one point, Bridger tracks the moral development of the main characters through the ethics of childhood (when "good" and "bad" is primarily determined by obedience to authority figures) and into the morality of adults (which demands independent thought, decision-making, and a certain amount of self-responsibility.) It's an interesting idea in itself, but made even more so when linked to theological theories dating back to St. Paul. ("When I was a child," anyone?) In doing so, he gently chides those who disparage the books for "rewarding disobedience", explaining that for adults, disobeying an unethical rule is sometimes the correct moral decision.

In addressing the main objections raised by concerned parents and certain parts of the Christian community, Bridger is respectful of their fears but firm in his explanation of why he does not feel they are warranted. At the same time, he doesn't praise the books uncritically - there are shortcomings, but it is his view that there's more mileage to be gotten from discussing them, and what they say about the society they reflect, than from condemning them and ignoring all the good in the books.

Overall, the book is very insightful. His discussion of "magic," what the word means and has meant in the books and throughout history, was fascinating. He deals deftly with many of the moral ambiguities raised in the books, and points out deeper meanings than I had thought to look for before. As philosophy, as theology, and as literary commentary, the book is brilliant.

A note: the book only deals with the first four Potter books. I doubt if the author is planning to write a second commentary on the last three after the seventh book comes out this summer, but I'd be excited to read it if he were!
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on November 22, 2002
Not to mention tiresome. Who the heck cares if there is a "positively Christian" way to read these wonderful books or not? They are entertainment, not theology or even serious spirituality. And just what would "positively Christian" mean anyway with 500+ official sects and many varieties of interpretation within even them. Why must Christians, or Moslems or whatever group of people need to make such a work of entertainment their own or pass their blessings upon it?...
The notion that magic is vestigial in these works is simply ridiculous. Of course if there is any magic then vestigial aspects of Dark Ages Christianity will strive to determine whether it is "of the Devil" or compatible with some generalized notion of Christian doctrine. YAWN.
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