book reviews

The Cursed Child

It seems strangely appropriate to open my new blog with my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. After all, what other book series has spanned so much of my life and had such a profound effect on me?

*considers this for a moment*

OK, so there are others, but Harry Potter is definitely one of them. And there are few other series that fill me with such profound happiness. I think it’s to do with loving the books so intensely as a child; there is something different about the way one loves things when one is eleven versus when one is…er…no longer eleven.

The cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone showing a younger Dumbledore.
My copy of Philosopher’s Stone, complete with strange pin-striped trouser man on the back. The internet has informed me that this is supposed to be Dumbledore. No, it’s not a first edition. Alas!

As an eleven year old reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone , there was nothing I (and probably most of my fellows) wanted more in the world than a letter from Hogwarts.

As an adult I still wouldn’t say no to the letter, although I do have a few health and safety questions first…

I approached Cursed Child with lowered expectations, of course. It wasn’t going to be a novel, no matter how much I might want it to be. It wasn’t going to rewrite the epilogue to Deathly Hallows, no matter how much I might want that too. I was determined to view it as only quasi-canon, an entirely separate beast from the rest of the series. I told myself not to get too excited.

And yet…

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And coffee. With marshmallows. For luck.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And coffee. With marshmallows. For luck.

I don’t know if you, Gentle Reader, were there for the last few releases of the later Harry Potter books. I don’t know if you remember the frenzy of speculation, gnawing over theories for years between instalments. I don’t know if you counted down the days to release dates, if you hugged your copy close and then sequestered yourself in your bedroom and shouted at anyone who came in for the next 24 hours. I don’t know if you read until the words blurred and your head ached and you still couldn’t stop because you desperately needed to know what happened next.

I may or may not have done all of the above. Particularly the shouting.

As I stared down at my newly purchased copy of Cursed Child, all that came back to me, everything I was then and have become in the years since, everything these books meant to me, bitter and joyful all at once.

I can be a tad melodramatic sometimes.

I ordered coffee and stared at my new book some more. I opened the first page.

Act One Scene One
Act One Scene One

I closed the first page.

Harry is thirty-seven, I thought with a shock. It had been a long time since Harry was older than me.

I took off the dust-cover and admired the gold-stamp on the case.

Gold-stamped cover of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What it looks like nekkid, in effect.
Gold-stamped cover of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. What it looks like nekkid, in effect.

I put the dust cover back on. I drank the coffee. I carefully re-wrapped the book in its brown paper bag. I walked home.

I took the book out again.

And then, Gentle Reader, I read it.

It actually only took me a couple of hours to do so. Playscripts have much less words to them than books of equivalent size. The marathon I had psyched myself up for turned out to be more of a Sunday morning stroll.

So what did I think?

Spoilers from here on out, Gentle Readers!

Well, firstly: I need to squee:

Albus Severus Potter is in Slytherin!!!!!!!!!

I have hoped for this to be the case for so long that this single fact makes me inclined to forgive Cursed Child literally anything and everything else.

Second squee:

Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter are besties!!!!!!!!!

This makes me so happy. You have no idea how happy.  SO MUCH HAPPY.

I have always felt Slytherin never really got shown as anything other than evil at worst and mildly bad at best. It is so satisfying to see Slytherin heroes!

And did I mention that Scorpius and Albus are best friends and that they are the most adorable pair of besties that ever bestie-ed?

Whew, okay, glad we got that out of the way.

Secondly: boy is it weird reading a playscript where you get told what people’s feelings are rather than being shown them. To take a random example:

PROFESSOR McGONAGALL is full of unhappiness, HARRY is full of purpose, GINNY is not sure what she’s supposed to be —Act Two, Scene Ten

You lose a lot of nuance, which I imagine is added back in when you see it on stage with live actors.

Please please let them film one of the shows so those of us not in London can see it!

Thirdly: this play is so unbelievably fanfiction-y it’s surreal. I say that as someone who has a deep and abiding love for fanfiction. For those who don’t, what I mean by it being “fanfiction-y” is that it uses some of the more ridiculous devices you often see fanfiction writers use when they just want to have fun / are being a bit over the top. Like, let’s see:

  • Voldemort’s Secret Love Child!
  • Who Can Fly!
  • Is Going To Use Time Travel to Change The Past!
  • Unless She’s Stopped By Our Slytherin Heroes!

That’s basically the plot. I’m being serious here. The plot genuinely involves Voldemort’s secret love child and time travel.

Would I have preferred a different plot that didn’t re-hash events from the original series? Absolutely.

Would I have liked to see more of Albus and Scorpius at school and less of them jumping back and forth in time? Obviously, yes.

Did it really add much to our existing knowledge of Harry Potter? No, not really.

Did I have trouble grappling with these suddenly older characters, not quite the same ones I knew and loved? Yes, and it pained me.

But did I still enjoy the hell out of it? Yes, yes I did.

And do I intend to re-read all seven original Harry Potter books asap? You betcha.

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