As we feature artists and rebels in literature, I thought it is a good time to share my thoughts about the recent instalment in the Harry Potter series.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Based on an Original New Story by: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne A New Play by: Jack Thorne
Publisher: Little, Brown 2016
ISBN: 0751565350 (ISBN13: 9780751565355)
Review copy received from Pansing Books.
I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I vividly remember saving up what little money I had when I was pregnant to buy the last two novels in the series (see, I know my priorities), crying over a few of the scenes, and discussing the characters (is the chosen one Harry or Neville?) over three-way landline conversations with my girlfriends (there weren’t any smartphones during that time). I relived all this excitement two years ago when my daughter finally found herself falling in love with Harry Potter. She read the first book when she was younger and didn’t particularly care for it then – just goes to show how books eventually manage to find you at that perfect time when you are ready for it.
This year, avid bibliophiles (or at least those who do not turn their noses up on mainstream literature) have been counting the days until the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Kinokuniya here in Singapore called it the Event of the Year with the main store opening at 7:01 am alongside a grand HP8 Magical Party with costumes! To generate this much excitement, the novels must have done something really good in so many people’s lives.
Reading the first few pages made me slip back comfortably into the world of Harry Potter. If I can snuggle right into a book, I would have done so. Was I jarred by the play format of the book? After reading so many nasty reviews about the narrative style, I must admit that I found it all quite tiresome. I am just glad that there is another Harry Potter story to come home to – and the fact that Rowling is willing to experiment with new formats and collaborate with other creators who use a wildly different style suggest that she is able to fearlessly reinvent who she is as a writer. The play format, however, has its yays and nays. A definite yay would be that it’s fast-paced, there is always a forward (or backward) movement – depending on where one is at with the use of the Timeturner, with the structure quite neatly folded into separate acts and scenes. The nay of course has to do with the lack of subtlety – a theatre script by its very staged/rehearsed nature needs to spell out certain affective elements in a none-too-explicit (note: exaggerated) fashion. But, see, that is what theatre does – it needs to be larger than life, so the reader gets to feel that through the pages, which perhaps may not be what other avid readers are expecting.
My copy came thoughtfully enclosed with a few of the press release surrounding the publication of this Special Rehearsal Edition Script which I read prior to reading the actual book.
So perhaps one could say that I have been duly warned or sufficiently informed and this interview clearly shows that Rowling left much of the writing to Tiffany and Thorne who actively consult her as to whether they got the nuance or their vision correct and whether the characters felt right to her. This led other reviewers to claim that it feels more like a fan-fiction rather than a legitimate part of the Harry Potter series. With Harry Potter’s massive following and the many variants (the films are not the least of them) that came out which led inevitably to the transformation of the Potter world as a very lucrative enterprise, I think Rowling has relinquished parts of its ownership to the larger public, which I thought was pretty generous of her, really.
So what is Harry’s son like? Note that a great part of the script leaves Harry, Hermione, and Ron out – this is Albus and Scorpius’ story. Albus is the middle child in the family with an older brother named James and a younger sister, Lily. And oh yeah, he got sorted into Slytherin, which is his worst nightmare come true. He became fast friends with an outsider, Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, who turns out to be my favourite character in this book.
While Harry and Ginny seemed to have done quite well with the two kids, they seem hard pressed to connect with Albus who I found to be whiny, resentful, and entitled. There seems to be nothing that Harry is able to do right when it comes to Albus – they just press each others’ buttons in a spectacularly wrong way despite their best intentions. Albus played right into the rebellious teenager trope with a celebrity for a father who is known for saving the world. There must be worse states in life, yes, but he does not seem to have the capacity of taking things into perspective just yet, preferring to nurse those feelings of persecution until they become a living breathing entity that stood between him and his father, Harry, who is too flummoxed to do anything about it.
The multiple time-travels and variations of the past and the future also rapidly became quite repetitive for me – but I suspect that it might produce a different vibe on stage as the actors play out those parallel realities in what would most likely be a more effective and entertaining manner.
So did it live up to my expectations? You see, that’s the thing. I didn’t really have any – just a curious sense of anticipation to finally return to a world that was a second home to me. I am glad to revisit it. And yes, I would love to watch the play – and read more of Harry Potter’s world in the future.