The name of the game is “Guess the book”.
The book I am thinking of was written by a female novelist, but published in such a way as to disguise her gender. It features an orphan who up to the age of 11 lives with relatives who treat them badly, and is bullied by a cousin. They are mistreated, have supernatural experiences, and are forced to live in a small closet instead of a normal bedroom. Eventually they leave to go to school, where one of their friends sadly dies. Yes, of course, that’s right, it’s Jane Eyre. What do you mean, Harry Potter?
When I first spotted these similarities between the two novels I felt so smug. To be fair to JKR the mistreated orphan theme is a common one, and many of the characteristics I have listed belong to the trope. There are sad little orphans throughout literature, most notably in 19th century novels were parents died at the drop of a hat. But I then made the mistake of checking with my friend Google as to whether anyone else had spotted the similarities. And of course the world and his wife has written about it, so much so that I felt the idea was embarrasingly obvious. But it was an original observation when I had it, and I can’t help the fact that everyone else feels the same.
In the long waits for the final few Potter novels to come out I read a lot of online commentary about the series – too much I believe, because in the end the final denouement held few surprises – other than Rowling’s bloodthirsty slaughter of almost every secondary character. Nowhere did I come across a Jane Eyre comparison analysis – I am sure it was there somewhere, I just didn’t read it.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I don’t give a damn that two books share some common features. Shakespeare wrote very few original plots, and he didn’t give a fig about it either – there was no attempt to disguise his sources, quite the opposite, they were often very explicitly flagged. But it is a fun game to play when you have a few spare moments – spot the similarities between two otherwise very different books.