Rereading this book when you know the whole story, you realise anew how much Harry still has to learn about the wizarding world. In this book, Harry, Ron and Hermione learn how to use the essential Expelliarmus spell, how to make and use polyjuice potion, and for the first time Azkaban prison casts its shadow. We meet the father of school bully Draco Malfoy and start to understand that the Malfoy family are not just snobs, not just nasty, but dark wizards and thinly-veiled supporters of Voldemort. It is here that we hear the insult, “mudblood,” for the first time and find out just how seriously some wizards take the “purity” of their blood – and everyone else’s. This book also has a wonderful comic moment in the duelling club, led by self-obsessed new teacher Professor Lockhart and cold, cruel Professor Snape, who one has to love to hate. I find myself mentally cheering Snape on, because Lockhart is just that annoying.
In some ways this is one of my lesser favourite books in the series. I’m not a big fan of the giant spider detour, and to be blunt, Dobby the house-elf is somewhat irritating. On the other hand, the Chamber of Secrets is a thrilling mystery, and I love the storyline with Tom Riddle’s old diary, which seems to be a magical revelation into the past, but turns out to be something much more sinister. I remember being amazed by the twist at the end when we discover the other, more famous identity of handsome, popular golden boy Tom Riddle.