August 4, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

I have a long history of loving Harry Potter.

I hate to be all, "I loved Harry Potter before it was popular," but, actually my family did get an early start on the most famous series of our lifetime.

In 1998, my mom was on the hunt for something new to read for our mini book club, and found a recommendation on Amazon for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

The reviews were excellent and she ordered a couple of copies and distributed them to the various families involved in our little book club.

My mom has read aloud to us all our lives, and so she began reading this to us and within a chapter, we were all completely hooked.

We immediately dove right into Chamber of Secrets and then pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when it came out in the fall of 1999, which is when Harry Potter really started picking up major steam (after we'd read the first one the year before, my mom ordered copies to give close friends and family for Christmas, but by December of 1999, it was so popular everyone already owned it. I have no idea what she did with the dozen or so hardback copies she purchased).

We went to our first ever midnight release for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the summer of 2000 at Borders (RIP) and it was fairly tiny, with probably less than 100 people there, no games or fanfare, just books available at midnight, and we made my mom read us the first chapter at 1 a.m. before we all collapsed into bed.

Anyway, I've read every Harry Potter book multiple times, I've seen all the movies (usually at a midnight showing on opening day), and I just thoroughly love all things Hogwarts and Harry Potter.

There was no question I'd read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when it came out, and I put myself on the library hold list a few weeks early, snagging the #3 spot on Overdrive.

And so, the day after the book was released, my Kindle copy showed up and I read it that same day.

The first thing to know is that this is not a novel - it is a play script.

So that totally immersive experience I get with the Harry Potter novels, where you can practically taste the butterbeer and hear the crackling fire in the Gryffindor common room, is just not really there.

I went into the book not knowing a THING about the storyline, so if you want the same experience, skip the next three paragraphs (although I'll avoid any spoilers).

The story opens 19 years after the last Harry Potter ended (with the Battle of Hogwarts, where Voldemort is defeated). Harry Potter's second son, Albus Severus, is off to his first year at Hogwarts, and he's darn nervous about it, especially since his older brother, James, keeps teasing him that he'll end up in Slytherin. Harry tries to reassure his son, but their relationship is stilted, to say the least.

Albus DOES end up in Syltherin, and his Hogwarts experience is pretty dismal, and several years pass as he and Harry are increasingly distant.

And then Albus overhears a conversation between his father and an old old man, and makes the sudden rash decision to take righting some past wrongs into his own hands.

I didn't notice it at the time, because I was just flying through the story, but afterward, the whole story seems . . . unlikely to me (I know, it's all magic and made-up anyway, but you know what I mean). In the 7 Harry Potter novels, I never felt like Harry was just looking for adventure; they always found him. Whether his name got added to the Goblet of Fire without his knowledge or Sirius Black seems out to get him, the trouble Harry gets into is never because he just wants to be a hero.

This one, which all comes from Albus' sudden decision to make a difference, seems much more random to me. And I'll admit that Albus just wasn't as likable a protagonist as Harry always was.

Also, Harry Potter has always been the backbone of the series, so it's a major departure to have him as not quite the main character. You certainly see plenty of Harry, but. . . Albus is definitely the center of the story.

And Harry seems so much flatter to me than he ever was in the original books (my nearly 31-year-old self is cringing at the thought that parents/adults are just much duller than reckless 14 or 15 year olds, at least in fantasy).

It's an interesting plot because it is a major mix between new characters and plot lines, and familiar characters and stories. I've read some reviews saying it feels like fan fiction, and I can absolutely see that. It does have that sort of new/old mashup feeling. I won't pretend it's not hugely fun to see familiar characters (Draco Malfoy! Hermione as Minister of Magic! Dumbledore in his picture frames! Ginny and Ron!).

There were some amusing parts, but I didn't find it as clever or funny as the original series - I think I only really cracked a major smile once.

Still, I'm absolutely glad I read it - it was totally delightful to be back in that world with those characters again, and no one has an imagination quite like J.K. Rowling. If you're a fan of the original series, it's just a fun quick dip back into that beloved storyline, brief though it might be.

Mostly I just really am dying to go back and read the whole series again. I'm not planning to read them with Ella until she's about 8, so I have plenty of time to enjoy them by myself this year and still have a couple more years before we read them together.

And let me tell you, if the stage version ever comes to anywhere remotely near to me, you better believe I'll do anything short of selling my children to get myself a ticket.

9 comments:

  1. I share a similar love of Harry Potter and my family also discovered it "before it was cool". I was so excited for this script, and like you, I really enjoyed being with the characters again. It was definitely different, but it was still a lot of fun and the new characters were quite likable and interesting. Although I enjoyed reading the script (and found it quicker to read, too!), I definitely missed the depth of a novel. I hope to see the play sometime - hopefully it comes to Canada someday!! I am also stuck on when to read the original series to my girls - I was thinking about the same as you mentioned (i.e. age 7 or 8). I was 13ish when I started the first 3 but there's no way I can wait that long for my kids!

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  2. I said at the beginning of the summer that I was cautiously excited about this book and that still seems to be the appropriate reaction. I got my library hold copy a few days ago but am still trying to finish up two books before starting. If nothing else, I'm excited to be in that world again!! I appreciated reading your thoughts!

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  3. I love reading plays, but it is SUCH a different experience than reading a novel. I find I have to read them much slower, to really savor the words and then take the time to fill in all the unsaid details, facial expressions, costumes, sets, lighting, dramatic change, etc. Instead of having someone write all that down for you, you have to remember to fill it all in yourself. Yes, I definitely read plays much slower. Like, I usually mouth the words of dialogue, and sometimes have to go back a few lines to re-read and make sure I get what they are trying to say.

    xox

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  4. Yay for Harry Potter!! But now for the real question . . . Which Ilvermorny house are you in? :)

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  5. I agree- it's definitely not one of the books but still fun. And I LOVED that Draco's son was the nicest kid ever. Also, I figured out the who-done-it as soon as they showed up, and in my opinion part of J.K. rowling's mastery is that the end is always totally a surprise. Also I'm really glad it didn't mess up any of the original books. Still so fun though!
    I was talking to someone who saw the play in London and they said it was amazing because the special effects were just incredible. He said, story line, okay, but special effects, magical. I'm in Phoenix too so fingers crossed it comes somewhere close!

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  6. I have a very similar history with Harry that you do. My mom was searching for a book that my brother would actually read and my aunt recommended the series to her in 1998 for a book he might enjoy. I immediately confiscated it and have been a fan for nearly two decades. I read the series every other year (The next time I'm going to read, I'll be reading it aloud to my two daughters who will be 9 and 7). Like you, I read a kindle copy as soon as it was released. I had similar feelings to you.

    I enjoyed seeing the interactions with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The relationship between Harry's son Albus and Draco's son Scorpius was probably my favorite part, and in fact Scorpius was probably my favorite character. There was definitely a lot of humor within the script, and I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of the one liners. There were some new spells, but without actually seeing them on stage I had no idea what they were for. The play is getting rave reviews, so I'm sure the experience of seeing it is incredible, and standing apart from the actual series I can see how it is an enjoyable story. I tried to read it as slowly as I could so I could try and imagine how it would appear on screen. I also enjoyed watching Harry navigate through parenthood. That was pretty fun. The part with Snape was extremely touching.

    That being said...
    The Bad: Oh, there was so much bad. First of all, it felt like fanfiction. I don't ever read fanfiction because it's all so ridiculous. Plot holes galore. Secondly, it was so inconsistent. Ron's character felt more like a combination of Mr. Weasley and Fred/George on pain killers. He was a buffoon, not the lovable, sardonic, lazy but loyal Ron we all love. At one point they need polyjuice potion and they decide that they're going to go into the basement of Bathilda Bagshot and brew it up on the spot, no, no you can't do that. The tone is inconsistent with the Potter books. One of my most aggravating moments occurs when a frustrated Harry is speaking to a portrait of Dumbledore and he says things that Harry would NEVER say to Dumbledore. Not even Order of the Phoenix Harry would have said the things forty year old Harry said to Portrait Dumbledore. The other thing I didn't like was the absence of so many characters. like any of the Weasleys besides Ron and Ginny.

    Overall, I'd say it was entertaining. There were some very redeeming qualities in an It's a Wonderful Life kind of way, and it was fun to imagine something different. I can understand why people might enjoy fanfiction. But that is who I'd recommend this to. People who enjoy fanfiction, and not necessarily people who are fans of the Harry Potter series.

    And SPOILERS...I found the idea of a certain someone becoming a death eater just because he was humiliated one time ABSURD. I also felt the "big twist" of two people procreating equally as unlikely... (she WISHES).

    Oh, and I don't think it helped that I'd just finished the series yet again the morning I started to read the play, so I was very immersed in the world and the anachronisms were glaringly obvious.

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  7. It is unreal to me how many times Gwen has read Harry Potter. Not exaggerating when I say probably over ten times through the whole series...and she's 11. She blows through all library books we get at the library and then won't beg to go back, she will just pick up Harry Potter book 1 and start the series over again. Probably the nicest thing I have done for anyone ever was to let her go to Harry Potter World when we were in Florida. Amazing. My heart was a little bit broken the other day when she told me she thinks she lives the Hunger Games more than Harry Potter. End of an era...that said though, she was out reading one of the HP books this afternoon in the blazing Texas heat. And want to know a little secret? I've never even read one of them! Ha ha. Anyway, I'll pick this up for Gwen !

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  8. I want to read it so bad! But I've grounded myself from reading any novels until I take and pass my FNP Boards on Oct 31! After that I'll finally be done with all the requirements of the longest FNP degree ever.

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  9. Oh man, I waited to read this post until I finished the book...and I have so many feelings! I have loved the series for years - in fact, the only all nighters I have ever pulled have been after the midnight releases of the new books (that probably makes me a loser, but whatever) - and it was so hard for me to read this new one. I actually liked it more than I thought I would, but it actually made me kind of sad to read about the characters as adults, when I had my own ideas about how they few up.

    Anyway, I'm going to cut myself off before I totally let my HP freak flag fly. I did try to plan my upcoming honeymoon around the availability of tickets to see the show in London...so suffice to say that I enjoyed it enough :)

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