Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (book 2 in the series) by J.K. Rowling on 8 cds, performed by Jim Dale
Read on original release date and listened to the audiobook in 2005
In this second book in the series, a 12 year old Harry Potter is back with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon and their horrible son Dudley on Privet Drive. He's back in the arms of the people who care so little about him and his existence after being an ordinary kid who's just survived an extraordinary year. he had his first sense of belonging, his first friends and his first great adventure. And, he did it all while learning who and what he really is and all about his family and heritage. At least he graduated from the cupboard under the stairs and has been granted an actual bedroom.
So, Harry is back home for the summer and figures he can survive a couple of months of anything, since he's returning to his beloved Hogwarts on September 1. But, he doesn't get a single letter from his friends. Uncle Vernon forces Hedwig to be locked in her cage and all of his wizarding things are locked away. He's completely cut off from his identity as a wizard. Harry begins to feel dejected at the prospect that he doesn't really have friends after all. Then, at the worst possible time, Harry gets a visit from an odd magical creature. He is greeted in his room by Dobby the house elf, clad in an old pillowcase, tied with a rope belt. It turns out that Dobby is responsible for Harry not hearing anything from his friends. Dobby has escaped from the family he serves to try to convince Harry not to return to Hogwarts.
When Dobby's requests go unheeded he makes more trouble for Harry, using magic and ruining Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's business dinner party. Harry is locked in his room with no hope for release. His door is locked, his window is barred and he is only allowed out twice a day to use the bathroom. His meals are provided through a slit in the door. It's total solitary confinement. Luckily, the Weasely boys come to the rescue in a flying car.
Dobby is not done "helping" Harry, though. He thwarts Harry and Ron getting to the Hogwarts Express by blocking the portal to Track 9 3/4. When Harry still insists on risking anything to get back to school, Dobby strikes again by trying to have Harry injured in a quidditch match, badly enough to be sent home. None of Dobby's friendly efforts work and Harry is as determined as ever to remain at Hogwarts, the only place that actually feels like home to him.
This book, like the others, has a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor (they are like Spinal Tap drummers), and Gilderoy Lockhart is a wizard's pin-up model. He's a charmer, I guess. Well, he's written as cheesy and smarmy and with an unbelievably large ego, but the ladies all love him. Lockhart sees an opportunity in aligning himself with the famous Harry Potter, which is pretty comical. The contradiction between the personalities of the two characters is the best part of the book. Lockhart's need for attention and praise, in juxtaposition to Harry's enjoying his friends and wizarding life and not caring at all, and even being a little put off by his celebrity. And, of course, because people are constantly thinking that Harry really is like Lockhart.
Lockhart and Harry are both put to the test when the Chamber of Secrets is opened and someone is petrifying the residents of Hogwarts castle. We learn about Tom Riddle through his mysterious diary, as well as just how Moaning Myrtle wound up spending an eternity whining in the ladies' room. We also meet the lovely little Ginny Weasely who begins her first year at the school and see friendships struck, solidified and tested.
I'm pretty sure that kids are drawn to these books by the simple goodness of the main characters. Harry, Ron and Hermione are loyal and true to one another. Their friendship is heartwarming. Every kid would want to befriend them. Besides the magic, mystery and adventure, which are certainly staples of childhood reading, we also get well crafted stories and fully fleshed out, compelling characters.
To sum up: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is once again an enjoyable 8 hours. Jim Dale did a great job on the voices and the reading of the story. I, however, only recommend the cd version to people who aren't going to read the book otherwise, or want a refresher. I like seeing the words, the plays on words and the little written jokes that are so much better understood when viewed on a page. I also have a habit of going back to check things in books where there are mysteries and twists, and stuff along those lines. I may remember something differently and I like to see what was really written. That can be kind of difficult in a book, especially a long one, but bordering on impossible when you are talking about a number of cds.