Author(s) J.K. Rowling
Genre(s) Childrens Fantasy Fiction
Publisher Bloomsbury
Number of Pages 223
This eighteen chapter novel is the first of seven Harry Potter novels following the young wizard as he discovers his magical abilities and heritage while making friendships and enemies during his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry written by J.K. Rowling.

The story begins with a description of the non-magical family of the Dursleys, Vernon and Petunia with their one year old son Dudley, living a happy lifestyle in Surrey at the beginning of November, however unnatural elements start to invade their life which raises an eyebrow from Mr Dursley, during the night, an elderly wizard meets with a witch and another wizard to drop off a young child on the doorstep on the Dursley's house this child, Harry Potter is their nephew and has been orphaned by the events of the previous night and none the wiser for it. After being discovered there the next morning he is taken in but devalued immediately by his only living blood relatives.

The story jumps forward to the early part of the Summer ahead of Harry's eleventh birthday, where he is invited out reluctantly to join them celebrating Dudley's birthday at the zoo. While at the reptile house, Harry feels gloomy but is grateful not to be stuck in his only haven in the Dursley household, a cupboard under the stairs. Dudley and a friend he has invited are irritated by the lack of movement of the animals, but a Boa constrictor snake begins movement after Dudley has shifted his attention elsewhere, leaving Harry to continue to look at the reptile and appears to have gained a conversation with the snake causing Dudley to rush back. Harry frustrated by the antics of his cousin appears to make the glass vanish meaning that Dudley ends up in the enclosure much to the panic of Harry's aunt and uncle.     

Once back home Harry is banished to his cupboard, but one morning shortly after he picks up the post for the Dursley family, and finds an envelope addressed to him, confused he attempts to hide it but is unsuccessful, his aunt and uncle share concerned glances as they make assumptions to what the letter will inform Harry of. In bid that Harry receives a letter the house sees more and more arrive but still Vernon attempts to thwart but eventually the overpowering amount of letters pushes him to take Petunia, Dudley and Harry somewhere remote in attempt to throw the letter sending off guard.

Once at the remote hut, Harry celebrates his eleventh birthday lonesomely before a giant man arrives and despite protests from Vernon, explains that he is Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, still unsure Harry asks more, horrifying his aunt and uncle in the process as their shame of keeping Harry's magical heritage has a secret has been rumbled. Eventually Harry is able to read a letter informing him that he is entitled to go to the wizarding school and that Harry's parents were not killed in a car crash, but by Lord Voldemort who had also attempted to kill Harry but only left the title character with a lightning bolt scar. With emotions high, Harry still doubts his magical abilities but Hagrid tries to explain that the incident at the zoo was an example of Harry's powers.

The day after Harry is taken by Hagrid to start to prepare for Hogwarts, getting all that Harry would require for his first year at the school, worried about lack of money, Harry and Hagrid visit the bank of Gringotts where Harry discovers his parents had left a lot of money for him, Hagrid also picks up a mysterious package that he asks Harry to keep quiet about. Now with money Harry gets all his supplies and inventory for the academic year, including textbooks, robes and eventually his wand. Whilst in the wand shop, he tries various different ones, until he is allocated the one which suits him best. Hagrid also gifts him with an owl which Harry called Hedwig as well as Harry's ticket to get on the Hogwarts Express train on 1 September.

The day of Harry going off to Hogwarts arrives and is taken to King's Cross station but still has to find his platform, 9 and three quarters which bemuses Vernon and the staff working at the station when Harry asks where he could locate it. After overhearing the Weasley family coming onto the station and looking for the hidden barrier, Harry interrupts them and joins them as they make their way between 9 and 10. While on the train, Ron, the youngest of the Weasley children going to the school and will be in Harry's year, introduces himself and explains his situation. Gobsmacked when Harry introduces himself, Ron asks to see Harry's scar. The pair start their friendship before both of them are asked by a pretentious high achiever Hermione Granger. They also meet an unpleasant Draco Malfoy and his friends Crabbe and Goyle.

Once the train stops, students disembark at Hogsmeade station, before Harry is reunited with Hagrid who takes the first years on small boats on route for the castle. Once at the Castle they are placed individually under the Sorting Hat which audibly confirms which house would be suitable for the individual based on their personality traits. Harry is called up to the stool and puts the hat upon his head, nervous but determined Harry informs the hat he doesn't want to end up in Slytherin due to what Hagrid had told him about the school house. With this in mind, the hat confirms Harry and Ron along with Hermione will be in Gryffindor and Draco and his friends will go in Slytherin. They meet more classmates as they tuck into their first feast in the Grand Hall along with the Gryffindor ghost, Nearly-Headless Nick, a deceased gentleman who was not totally beheaded.

After the feast, Albus Dumbledore who Harry is made aware of as the Headmaster of the school issues some warnings about not going into the Forbidden Forest and to avoid the third floor corridor. Harry also asks about Severus Snape as his scar begins to hurt. They are then encouraged to go up to their common rooms and dormitories where they are shown how to enter, by a password protected painting of an overweight lady.

Harry is thrown into the deep end with his classes and despite finding it interesting he is still not sure of his capabilities. After a couple of weeks of standard lessons, Harry and his fellow Gryffindors are offered flying lessons with the Slytherin first years, finding out he is a natural broomstick flier, the same couldn't be said about fellow Gryffindor classmate Neville Longbotham whose broom behaves erratically and creates an accident for the student. Draco Malfoy finds Neville's remembrall deciding to throw it somewhere Neville will not locate it. Harry decides to stick up for Neville and harries to get it, therefore having his first ever experience on a broomstick. Harry retains the remembrall but is spotted flying without permission by Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor house, he is reprimanded for doing so but the transfiguration teacher asks Harry to follow her in which she interrupts a Defense against the Dark Arts class containing an older student Oliver Wood and advises that Harry should be selected for the Quidditch team.

After being teased once again by Malfoy, Harry agrees to a duel with the Slytherin, but despite protests from Hermione, he and Ron attempt to take on the blond haired first year, Hermione follows them after unable to get back in the common room, but it is clear that Malfoy tricked them in attempt to get them found by caretaker Argus Filch. Unsure of where to go when Filch's cat is spotted, meaning that the caretaker cannot be too far behind, the Gryffindors run onto the forbidden section of the third floor and encounter a large three headed dog, Hermione not best pleased with Harry and Ron, lectures them that they could end up killed or expelled if they continue to disobey rules.

The next morning sees Oliver Wood give Harry an overview of Quidditch as Harry receives a top of the range broom as a gift from McGonagall.  Halloween signals another special feast, but this is interrupted by Professor Quirrell screaming that there is a troll in the dungeons, mass panic and chaos occurs, Harry astutely realises Hermione is unaware of the danger and with Ron's help tracks their classmate down and help save her life when it is clear that the troll is heading for her, this creates a friendship between the trio.

Harry's first Quidditch match is between Gryffindor and Slytherin which sees Harry win the game for his house after inadvertently catch the golden snitch ball in his mouth after his broom appeared to suffering from a curse which Hermione and Ron believe that Snape was producing, however after quick thinking Hermione distracted Quirrell and Snape with creating fire therefore causing Harry's broom to act normally.

After the match, Hagrid invites the trio over to his hut in the grounds, the trio are in belief that Snape is behind the troll invasion and the behaviour of the broom, Hagrid dismisses this, Hagrid involuntarily reveals that the three-headed dog, Fluffy, is his, and that what the dog is guarding is a secret known only to Albus Dumbledore and a man named Nicolas Flamel. This causes the trio to start to research the latter, and as Christmas approaches, Harry is encouraged to look deeper into the library. Harry and Ron stay at Hogwarts over the festive season where Harry gets an invisibility cloak but is not sure who from, he decides to use it in the restricted section of the library but is nearly caught by Filch after causing noise. Hiding Harry finds a large mirror in an abandoned classroom, with the inscription "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi" ("I show not your face, but your heart's desire"), Harry looks into the mirror and is surprised to see him standing with his parents, he attempts to communicate with them but they remain silent, somewhat saddened Harry returns to the dormitory. The next night he brings Ron to look at the mirror who sees himself as being successful, the following night Harry returns alone but encounters Dumbledore who explains the purpose of the mirror.

Eventually the trio work out that Nicholas Flamel was an alchemist and famed for creating the Philosopher's Stone, which can help the one using its powers to prolong death. Another Quidditch match is won by Harry catching the Golden Snitch and still under the thought that Snape is one chasing the Philospher's Stone Harry sees Snape hold a secret meeting with Professor Quirrell. The trio tell Hagrid that they are now under the impression that Fluffy is guarding the stone and Snape is the one who will steal it. Whilst with the gamekeeper Harry and his friends are spotted out of their dormitories by Filch who takes them to McGonagall after they are seen discussing things with Hagrid along with witnessing the hatching of a dragon from it's egg which Hagrid names Norbert.

Being caught leads to detention, the Gryffindor threesome, Neville and Malfoy, and they are expected to help Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest, where Hagrid believes an unicorn has been hurt. Split from the rest, Harry and Malfoy encounter a dead unicorn with a hidden creature drinking the silver coloured blood, this image scares Malfoy and Harry is saved by a centaur, named Firenze, who tells Harry that unicorn blood can keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but curses you with a half-life in the process. He then reveals that the person who was drinking it was doing so to remain alive until they were able to drink the Elixir of Life and wants the Stone. He also asks Harry if he would not know anyone who has been waiting for years to regain power and Harry realises that the mysterious figure was a weakened but still alive Voldemort.

Back in the common room, Harry tells Hermione and Ron that Voldemort's in the forest and that Snape wants the Stone to help Voldemort restore his powers. After updating Hagrid, the giant mistakenly tells them how to get past the three headed dog. Determined to challenge Snape for the Philosopher's Stone the trio set out after hours, but have to disarm Neville first, once at the third floor, they realise that the dog is already asleep due to tranquilised by music. Going through a range of challenges set by different professors, Harry is encouraged to go alone to try and prevent Snape.

However it is not the potions master who Harry meets standing awaiting him, but Quirrell who tells Harry that Snape had been trying to protect him. Quirrell confirms that he is serving Lord Voldemort, and although Snape disliked Harry because of his father, he never wanted Harry dead. He explains how Snape and Harry's father went to school together when they were younger, and how it was there where their hatred against each other started. Quirrell asks for help from his master to get the Philosopher's Stone, and a snake-like voice tells him to use the boy. Harry is told to look into the Mirror. He sees his reflection pull the Stone out of his pocket and put it back in, and Harry feels it drop into his own pocket. He tells Quirrell that he sees himself shaking hands with Dumbledore, after winning the House Cup for Gryffindor. The snake-like voice tells Quirrell Harry is lying and Quirrell takes his turban off to show Harry what lies on the back of his head. As Quirrell turns around, Harry is shocked to see another face where the back of Quirrell's head should be, Harry is aware that this is Voldemort who orders Quirrell to go after Harry, but the first year student's touch burns Quirrell's skin.

Harry awakes in the hospital wing and discusses the events with Dumbledore who telling him Quirrell did not succeed at getting the Stone, and indeed the Stone has been destroyed. In spite of this, there are other ways in which Voldemort can return. He cannot be killed, and he left Quirrell to die. Dumbledore explains the reason why Quirrell could not touch Harry was because Harry's mother had died to save him, protecting him with her love. Harry also told Dumbledore about what Quirrell mentioned to him earlier regarding Snape hating Harry due to hatred for his father. Dumbledore responds that Snape was only grudgingly protecting Harry this year to pay off a debt he owed due to James Potter saving his life during their Hogwarts years. Harry then receives a visit from Ron and Hermione, who reveal that Slytherin came in first for the House Cup and Gryffindor did not win their final Quidditch match before Hagrid gives Harry a magical photo album. 

At the end of term feast, Dumbledore awards some last-minute points for the recent events. He gives Ron and Hermione fifty points each, and Harry sixty, which places them in a tie with Slytherin for first place. Dumbledore then recognises that while it is hard to stand up to enemies, it is even harder to stand up to friends as Neville did, and he awards Neville 10 more points, which was the most house points Neville had ever gotten. This put Gryffindor in the lead and the eventual winners of the House Cup, too much rejoicing from everyone but the Slytherins.

Not only were Gryffindor students happy, but the other two houses Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were glad to see Slytherin not retain the House Cup. Soon, their trunks are all packed, and they take the Hogwarts Express back towards the muggle world.Harry, Ron and Hermione all say their goodbyes before heading home.

Review


The book itself is probably not my favourite of the seven Harry Potter books J.K. Rowling wrote however without it the rest of the storyline and adventures of the boy wizard would not make sense or set the tone for the remainder of the series.

It is a good starting novel by Rowling as she is descriptive of the universe she has created along with the characters which feature as household names once the reader has finished all of the books. Rowling’s commentary on the things she sees as important themes are clear from the start, with regards to the relationships between characters and their pride and placement within what she has created.

This is a book which at first reading as a younger child than what Harry is in the book, I did not understand all the concepts and aspects that the book was trying to portray however watching the movie adaption released on the big screen in 2001, helped me and sowed some of the seeds better however over time I have come to prefer the books to the movies however I do feel that the work done to bring it to cinema should not be deflated as they still are works of art in their own right. I still will happily return to reading the book many times in my life as the Harry Potter fandom means an awful lot to me as I’ve grown older.

Amazing to believe that it is only twenty years since this book and the start of this series was first published, the amount of success that it has had since that day is phenomenal and I cannot see a time where it will not be popular for many generations as the way that the book expresses core fundamental themes and elements has not been done in such a profound way before or since. Even if the reader has very little concept of some of the aspects, such as some of the very British narrative to the stories, I believe that it can be enjoyed by many globally and certainly has had a worldwide effect.

Quite surprisingly only Violinist Tasmin Little in 2001 has chosen to pick Harry Potter as chosen book to accompany the works of Shakespeare and preferred religious text on their Desert Island Discs episode. J.K. Rowling herself appeared a few months earlier.

The book can also be found as an Audiobook read by Stephen Fry which can be downloaded on Audible.

There are many different styled covers and versions of the book widely available however my favourite would be the illustrated version with the beautiful drawings by Jim Kay – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harry-Potter-Philosophers-Stone-Illustrated-x/dp/1408845644. At present only this book and the sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are available in this format but later in the year, it will be possible to purchase Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) too and the other four books after that too will be confirmed at some point too, one would imagine.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” Albus Dumbledore

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” Albus Dumbledore

“There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” – Professor Quirrell / Lord Voldemort

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