When I heard that there was going to be a new Harry Potter book I was shocked. Hadn’t J.K. Rowling said she wouldn’t be writing any more Potter tales? Was this some crazy hoax? No, no hoax. It would be the eighth story, nineteen years later and it was based on an original story from J.K. Rowling. Wait, just based on? Then the news came that it wasn’t actually an eighth book but, instead, it was the script to the play that would be premiering on July 30th, 2016; a play with tickets that were sold out seconds after they went on sale and a play that I could only see if I also forked out the money to go to London…
So, basically, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the script to a play that I would never see; the eighth story that would complete the books that sculpted my childhood (and still spark fiery debates amongst my friends today). Well, put that way, I was much more intrigued and knew that this was a book (play script or no) that I needed to read.
I, like most of the people my age, think of myself as part of the Harry Potter generation. You know, the exclusive set of people who grew up with the books. I first met Harry Potter when I was 10 (and he was 10. See? Magical). My mum first gave a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to me and my siblings saying that the woman in the bookshop had said it was good. We scoffed at her, knowing we were much better judges of books than some woman at a bookshop. What did she know about our reading habits anyway? So, sure I ignored Harry to begin with but when I finally shrugged off my pride and gave it a go, a crowbar would’ve have gotten me away from that book.
Then came the long wait between books. Why couldn’t J.K. Rowling write as fast as I could read? The years went by and I was there in the bookshop for every new release. Waiting til 11:01am for the timed release, knowing millions of children around the world were doing the same thing (and giggling that we had a nice mid-morning release in New Zealand, whilst others were yawning in a midnight line).
I devoured each and every Harry Potter book. I laughed and cried and wished and wished that my letter to Hogwarts would arrive. Sure, The Order of the Phoenix is way too long and Goblet of Fire should be renamed Harry Potter and the Raging Teenage Hormones but I loved them. The seventh book even came out on my birthday and I spent the entire day in bed reading. Happy birthday to me!
So, when the 31st of July (Harry Potter’s birthday by the way) finally came and I had to wait til 11:01 once again, the nostalgia levels were soaring and I was getting hyped. I picked up my copy and promptly sat down and read the opening pages. Those opening pages were enough for me to realise that, though it wasn’t wholly a new J.K. Rowling book, it definitely had all the right Hogwartian elements in it that I had so missed. I was immediately returned to the Wizarding World and I fell head over heels once again.
In the opening 10 pages, I laughed out loud at least 6 times. It didn’t matter that the book was laid out as a play script. In fact, it made it easier to read. There were no long descriptive paragraphs or extended action sequences. It read like a giant conversation with old friends (though some characters are in fact new). It read really easily and very quickly.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begins right where the epilogue in The Deathly Hallows finished. Harry Potter, now older and the father of three is taking his young son Albus Severus to Platform 9 ¾ to begin his first year at Hogwarts.
The opening scene is very quick and is there just to set the scene. Albus goes to Hogwarts and gets Sorted into his house (not quite where you expect he would be Sorted either) and then his first 3 years at school are over in a flash.
The story reaches full stride when Albus is 14. He doesn’t enjoy Hogwarts as much as his father did. He has one good friend, a lot of emotions and a whole pile of daddy-issues.
The story is a complicated mix of stories centring round the idea of time travel and the theory of altering the past to better the future. It involves a mix of new characters as well as all your favourite older characters. Ron, Hermione and Ginny all make an appearance as do Professor McGonagall and Draco Malfoy.
Everyone is now much older and are clearly weighed down by the strains of work, parenting and their relationships, which makes for interesting reading. Harry especially is feeling the strain. Now I, personally, find Harry very self-involved. He has never been my favourite character and I would go as far as saying he is my least favourite character. In The Cursed Child he is still just as hot-headed and short-tempered. He angers quickly and never takes the blame for problems that he has caused. This is exactly the case in this story. Harry fucks up, real bad.
I finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in two days (I grizzled all of Sunday as I had made plans with friends so I couldn’t read that evening) and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was only when I had finished the book that I really started thinking about it. Whilst reading, I was blinded by my joy of returning to Hogwarts. When away from the pages, I could see the faults in the storyline and the characters that were severely overlooked (Like, where was Teddy, Harry Potter’s foster son?).
These flaws are the reason I do not see this book as the eighth Harry Potter book. I think of it more as a very, very good fan-fiction that was approved by J.K. Rowling. It isn’t quite as clever as the originals and though there are red herrings a-plenty, you can immediately pick who is bad and who is good. It is a simpler story and though the scope of it was ambitious it was also a little all over the place.
Reading the script like this did make me desperate to see the play in person. I just don’t understand how some of the scenes could be achieved in a theatre-type setting. The reviews of the play have been completely outstanding and I think this would definitely be a better story to watch and live rather than just read.
Saying that, I really did enjoy reading The Cursed Child. It returned me to a world that I love. It was a fun, fast-paced adventure that had me laughing, smiling and then blinking very furiously so as not to cry on the bus. It was a great Hogwarts-hit for me and it made me feel like a relapsed junkie when I was done. It filled me with a Hogwarts euphoria that I hadn’t felt since 2007 and for that I am utterly grateful for this book.
I hope the play comes to a city closer to me soon but, until then I can reread the script and dream.