Review 2 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two
  • Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
  • Year Published: 2016
  • Setting: J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Point of View (POV): Screenplay Format
  • Themes: Family, Identity, Courage, Appearances, Memory, Friendship
  • My Rating: 4/10
  • Favourite Quotes:
    • “This… is the last thing I had from my mum. The only thing. I was given to the Dursleys wrapped in it. I thought it had gone forever and then . . . Dudley found this and he kindly sent it on to me” (Rowling et al. 39).
    • “‘The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution’” (Rowling et al. 48)
    • “To suffer is as human as to breathe” (Rowling et al. 258)

 

*WARNING! THIS REVIEW – LIKE ALL OF MY REVIEWS – CONTAINS SPOILERS! THIS PARTICULAR REVIEW ALSO CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE HARRY POTTER SERIES*

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a fantasy screenplay about Harry Potter’s son, Albus Potter, and his struggle to live up to his father’s reputation, as well as the difficult relationship between Harry and Albus. Much to everyone’s surprise, when Albus enters his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he is sorted into Slytherin rather than Gryffindor like the rest of his family. He becomes best friends with Scorpius Malfoy – the son of Harry’s rival throughout their time at Hogwarts – and feels ostracized from his family, and the older he gets, the more fights he gets into with his father. In Albus’ fourth year, he and Scorpius get into trouble with an illegal Time-Turner, threatening the safety and happiness of the entire wizarding world.

Albus is different from the rest of his family. He is not an extraordinarily talented wizard or athlete, and he is sorted into Slytherin, when his brother, parents, and grandparents are all Gryffindors. He rebels against the expectations placed on him due to his father’s reputation and allows himself to be manipulated into going back in time to save Cedric Diggory, who was killed by Voldemort in Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts. He even convinces Scorpius to come with him in his misguided schemes and the two are eventually kidnapped by Delphi, a witch with a false identity. Despite Scorpius’ willingness to follow along with Albus’ plans, he is arguably the best character in the play. He is a charming, happy geek who always has something funny to say, even in the worst situations. With this story being the first time Scorpius is introduced to fans of the Harry Potter world, the expectations were that he would act the same way as his father, Draco. Yet, Scorpius could not be more different. For myself at least, Scorpius saved this book from being a complete flop.

I obviously cannot talk about a Harry Potter book without talking about Harry Potter himself. However, in this play, Harry was not the character I know and love. This forty-year old Harry is unwilling to relate to his son Albus, just because he is different than Harry was at his age. As I read, I found it very difficult to take his character seriously because he was written so differently than he was in the original seven novels. Much of his actions and dialogue did not seem like it made sense coming from him, such as when he threatens Minerva McGonagall, one of the professors he respects most at Hogwarts, saying, “if I hear you don’t – then I will come down on this school as hard as I can – using the full force of the Ministry – is that understood?” (Rowling et al. 123). He also tries to force Albus to stop being friends with Scorpius just because Draco is his father. Honestly (and unfortunately), the scenes I enjoyed most in this play were the ones that didn’t include Harry.

The greatest conflict in this novel comes when Albus and Scorpius are kidnapped by Delphi, who at first claims to be Cedric Diggory’s cousin, and are taken back in time. When Harry and his team, including Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Ginny, go back in time to save Albus and Scorpius, they discover that Delphi is really the daughter of Voldemort. The Dark Lord had the child in secret with his right-hand Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, and now Delphi is trying to change the past to create a future in which Voldemort is still alive. Together, Harry and Albus are able to put aside their differences to defeat her, and good once again triumphs over evil.

Going into this book I already had a very strong emotional attachment to the author, the world, and the characters. However, due to the screenplay format, I found that J.K. Rowling’s voice was lost and that for the most part, the story came across very monotone. This prevented me from emotionally investing myself in this new Harry Potter storyline. Aside from the affection I developed for Scorpius, I did not feel connected to the characters or plot at all (even to Albus, the main character). I much would have preferred for this story to have simply been published as a novel – not a screenplay – written by J.R. Rowling, without the influence of any co-writers. The Cursed Child makes it very clear that it is Rowling’s magical writing that makes the story of Harry and his friends so beloved; no one else can write Harry Potter like she can. This book does not do Rowling’s ideas justice.

The pacing of the novel at times moved extremely fast – and not in a good way. Act One, Scene Four is called a ‘Transition Scene’, where “the changes are rapid as we leap between worlds. There are no individual scenes, but fragments, shards that show the constant progression of time” (Rowling et al. 19). In that one scene, the play moves from Albus’ first year to his third year at Hogwarts, the transitions truly feeling fragmented and making little sense. I had to reread the scene twice in order to figure out what was going on and what the authors were trying to accomplish. Seeing it performed on stage would probably have a greater effect, but in the published copy, the scene just does not succeed in portraying a time change in the flowing, easy way that the authors intended. The rest of the play continues in a fast-paced manner, although it is much more manageable by the time of the conflict’s peak. In regards to the setting, Rowling’s magical world is a key component to the story, for this narrative could not exist without it.

As a screenplay, the book is written the way that those familiar with the genre would expect, for “screenplays depend on evocative language and an interpretive reader to generate meaning,” (Rush & Baughman 36) due to the instances “of commentary, of irony, or of close-in lyrical experience – that need to be expressed in other ways” (Rush & Baughman 31). This screenplay heavily relies on interpretive readers and actors to turn the script into something great, because with its lack of authorial voice, it certainly is not on its own. The play also uses examples of evocative language (when something is described in a way that reminds the reader of something else), for instance, when Ludo Bagman is described as “the ‘greatest showman on earth’” it reminds fans of the series of how Bagman is known for having a huge personality, but it all being an act, for behind that big personality, Bagman is a coward and a cheat. He pretends to be someone that he is not, and calling him a ‘great showman’ emphasizes that fact.

I would recommend this book to longtime fans of the Harry Potter franchise who wish to read anything and everything Harry Potter-related that is released to the public. I would NOT recommend this book as a first reading experience for those who have never read Harry Potter before. Firstly, this is because it includes many spoilers for the first seven books of the series and would spoil the reader for the (MUCH BETTER) original story. Secondly, the fact that it is written as a screenplay instead of as a novel, like the previous books, would only confuse new readers, potentially even more so than it confused the long-time fans who are already familiar with the story and its characters. Regardless, NO ONE should go into this book expecting a piece of fantastic writing and NO ONE should expect this book to be at the same literary standard that the other Harry Potter novels are at, due to the amount that the play relies on the imagination of the readers to fill in the obvious holes in the narrative. I gave The Cursed Child a 4 out of 10, and I am completely aware that my personal bias is outweighing my knowledge that a screenplay cannot be considered on the same plane as a novel. I know that screenplays are limited by the restrictions of their genre, but I still cannot bring myself to give this book any higher of a rating. I do not regret reading this book and am glad that I can add it to my Harry Potter collection, but I seriously doubt that I will ever pick it up again for a re-read, the way I do with the original seven books of the series.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Hill, Beth. “Checklist for Editors.” The Editor’s Blog, 19 Aug. 2015, E.A. Hill, theeditorsblog.net/2011/06/07/checklist-for-editors. Accessed 3 Sept. 2016.

Rowling, J.K., John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016.

Rush, Jeff, and Cynthia Baughman. “Language as Narrative Voice: The Poetics of the Highly Inflected Screenplay.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 49, no. 3, 1997, pp. 28-37.

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