Thursday, August 4, 2016

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I & II (Special Rehearsal Edition)

AUTHOR: JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0751565355

GENRE: Fiction / Fantasy / Play (Drama)

NUMBER OF PAGES: 352

FORMAT: Hardcover Special Edition

SERIES / STANDALONE: Harry Potter #8 (Left to reader discretion)

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I OWN a copy of this book.

SUMMARY:

The Eighth Tale in the Harry Potter Saga

Being labelled as 'the boy who lived' for his whole life has not been easy for Harry Potter. In the official eighth instalment of the Harry Potter series penned in the form of a two-part stage production play, J. K. Rowling weaves yet another thrilling and magical yarn featuring the life of Harry Potter nineteen years later in the post-Voldemort wizarding world.

A glimpse into the epic tale

Harry Potter plays the role of a man finally living out the quiet, conventional lifestyle he always wanted to live as a Minister of Magic employee, who is a doting husband and father of three. Yet, he struggles to escape the haunting past, the demons of which continue to consume him. The play also features a grown up Albus Severus Potter following the footsteps of his legendary father and labouring to carry the burden of a family bequest and fortune he hadn't expected. As the past meets the present, the legendary father and son duo strive to come in terms with the darkness that lies within and overcome their inner demons.

The Play

The 'Harry Potter And The Cursed Child: The Play' airs for the first time at the London Palace Theatre on July 30th, 2016. The play is based on the book written by Jack Thorne in collaboration with J. K. Rowling and the book is scheduled to release on July 31st, 2016. On 10th February, 2016, it was declared that the scripts of both the parts of the play would be released in both digital and print formats.

J. K. Rowling promises to take fans deeper into the recesses of Harry Potter's mind as the play showcases the life of Potter when he was an unwanted orphan.


FIRST IMPRESSION:

I have always been a fan of the Harry Potter series (calling myself a Potterhead came naturally). So after being left high and dry for nearly a decade after the last book released, The Cursed Child was everything I was looking forward to read. There is no normal way to put this - Joanne Rowling shaped my childhood with her books. I have grown up reading Harry Potter, and have eagerly waited for the books in the series to release and spent many days discussing what would happen and what did happen in each of those books in fine detail.

For someone who wanted to relive the magic just once more, at least, this was a great chance. Eager to lap up JKR's words, I was very aware of how very childish I sounded as I thanked the delivery man with a handshake and a huge grin that probably confounded the poor soul. Sigh. All in the name of Harry Potter. The book, as is, looked amazing. I spent a good hour admiring it from all angles, the hardcover case, the black with gold combination and the overall effect of the book before beginning to read it. After all, how many more such opportunities will I be getting? 

DISCLAIMER

Though I have sincerely tried not to include them, the review below might have some spoilers. They are inadvertent and any true blue HP fan who might resent the accidental spoiler is advised to proceed with caution - I have NOT given line by line warnings.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU PURCHASE THIS BOOK:

Yes, recent furore from fans over this book really warranted this particular section. Not only because I am a JKR fan, but also because I don't want fellow potterheads to be disappointed. Of course it might be too late by now, for those of you who tasted bile and salt when you saw the book was not what you wanted it to be, but for those few others, who are teetering on the edge of buying - give this a read first.

1. This book is NOT a novel

I should think this one was pretty obvious. Though we might not have noticed it in our excitement earlier, to quench our thirst with another Harry Potter book, the summary, not to mention the many tweets on social media by Rowling herself, clearly state that the book is a SCRIPT. As in 'Act One, Scene Three', Character Name: Dialogue, Cue comments, etc.

2. This is not written by J K Rowling alone

Again quite obvious if you only pause to look. This book is a product of an author, a director and a playwright. The end product is, therefore, not what you would expect a pure JKR book to be. It is heavily influenced by the styles of the other two, with JKR just offering occasional story lines.

3. This book is not about Harry Potter or the Golden Trio alone

Though it is labelled as HP #8, this book is not about Harry Potter or the Golden Trio. Of course they feature in this. Of course they play important parts in this. But this book is mainly about the sons of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Yes. Take a moment to digest that. And yes, they are the best of buddies.

4. This book is not a continuation of the epilogue of Book 7, or even Albus's adventures at Hogwarts

Sneaky this one, to remember and understand. While this does begin with the King's Cross scene, the book is not in any way a continuation of the particular scene or even that particular year. The main location is not Hogwarts (we are kinda used to having Hogwarts as the place it all happens - so prepare to be disappointed there). Yes, it does feature in many pages, but neither Harry, nor Hogwarts take centre stage in this book.

5. Shrug aside ALL your preconceived ideas about the adult Golden Trio, and their kids

If you want to be able to read this comfortably, that is. Shrugging aside your pre conceived notions about how the children of the trio would turn out to be (developed over the years by reading and desperately rereading the epilogue and a lot of head canon, fan fiction and theories over the years) is a MUST if you want to be able to read the book. Want a sample? James is not the rebel. Albus is. Hermione can be and is mean, given special circumstances. Ron is sidelined as a joker in many parts. Harry can be a tyrant of a parent. Phew.

REVIEW:

So after that long disclaimer that actually contained major plot points, I begin my review.

The Cursed Child begins, as expected, where the epilogue left us. That particular opening pleased me so much and I did not mind the slight changes in the dialogues that showed the difference between what I would call the original and the latest, newest, book. We are given a glimpse of Albus as he asks his father about being sorted into Slytherin and thankfully, Harry gives him that solid bit of advice. And then he boards the train, when Rose Granger-Weasley domineeringly asks him to carefully pick friends because they are star kids and they can have their pick. That was the first sign that told me this book was not what I wanted it to be. Call it a bit of an over reaction, but I did not expect this from a child who was born to a man who valued friendship more than anything and a woman who stuck with a friend through thick and thin, going against her instinctive nature to be a disciplined student and helping him by breaking the rules.

And from there, the book rushes through scenes, and the story develops. Albus and Scorpius strike a friendship. Nothing happens for four years except the fact that Albus is shown as the resentful kid who hates his father with all the power of teenage angst because he could not live up to the expectations he thinks his father has. Yes, please do read that sentence again. Scorpius, though facing a grievous situation back home, is still the most sensible and clear character through most of the series, including the adults. One summer evening, the day before Albus is to board the train for yet another year at his school - a place where he is not really popular, Amos Diggory comes to Harry Potter with a strange request. Albus overhears that seemingly reasonable request and thinks (naturally) that his father is a cruel, cold, heartless man and decides to meddle.

Maybe it was his thirst for adventure, or the need to prove something to his father, or his own sense of being neglected, Albus then goes on a wild ride, meddling with time to set things 'right', at least, to his version of what is right. He takes along a reluctant Scorpius, who shows many character traits of Ron (as in loyalty and bravery in friendship) in his madcap adventure. He meddles with time and disaster ensues. How the boys and the trio come out of it forms the rest of the play. Pause. No, really. Take a pause. And now read further.

WARNING: spoilers ahead

Where the book captured my heart:

No matter how much I complain, this book offers yet another glimpse into the magical world that I yearn to read about. And for that, and that alone, this book gets major rating points. A prejudiced Potterhead would find everything about this book beautiful, but actually it all boils down to yet another chance to enter Hogwarts.

The plot actually is good. It is a really intricate, detailed plot that could have been moulded into something greater. 

The climax. The ultimate battle, this time in the past and the sacrifice Harry had to make, the one that will alter his own future. While it reminded me of that scene in Prisoner of Azkaban where he has to let Pettigrew escape despite knowing the truth, the concept of not meddling with time was, at least, upheld.

The lessons it imparted. In the words of JKR herself - terrible things have happened to wizards who meddled with time and thankfully, the book, wild ride that it was, clearly emphasises this lesson, yet again.

The subtle ideas on parenting and why even the best of them are sometimes not enough and how teenage is the time to rebel. The underlying emotions running between Draco and his son, or Harry and his son, is clearly outlined and is trademark JKR material that will tug at your heart strings.

The scene where Hagrid safely takes Harry away from Godric's Hollow will bring a lone tear to your eyes. Guaranteed.

What really ticked me off in the book:

That a full grown wizard who worked for the ministry would demand Harry to use a Time Turner that has been illegally confiscated from a known death eater, to reverse death. Despite repeated warnings that no power can bring back the dead so much so that even readers know that logic, there is no sane explanation for an ex ministry wizard demanding this totally unreasonable thing and then throwing a fit when he does not get his way.

While it is only believable that teenage kids are prone to rebellious phases, it somehow does not sit well with me that Albus, son of Harry and Ginny, would grow up to be such a resentful character. Harry grew up with the Dursleys, and he did not let his abused childhood affect his character. To think, even for a moment, that Harry would not have been a good father to his kids, letting them grow up love starved and favoring one above the other, is quite an injustice to his character. The teensy explanation at the end (the father son conversation) is not enough.

Ron, an important part in the original series (yes, I keep repeating that because I feel this is not a part of that) is reduced to a mere joker. I remember the Ron from the movies, sadly, who had to play Harry's sidekick who occasionally also plays the joker. The Ron who thinks giving a love potion to his adoloscent nephew is a good idea. He delivers groan worthy punchlines and I am not even talking about the polyjuice version who really went overboard. As to Dumbledore, who is reduced to a portrait that spews out irrelevant information thoroughly unrelated to the situation. And completely unhelpful. The original was vague, yeah. But this one is a mere echo, a remorseful echo.

Hermione will NOT become mean if she does not get Ron. No matter what alternate reality or timeline, reducing Hermione to a disgruntled, Snape like version who hurts Albus Potter and Ron's son (not hers) just because she did not get to marry Ron is an injustice to her character. In the timelines that come, she is shown as either disgruntled or deranged - both of which are hard to digest. While Snape himself is shown as the HERO in the one alternative timeline he appears in. Sure, yeah. He is a hero. We all get that. But was it really necessary to put down all the others to show this fact, despite that very public tweet from JKR herself that refused to glorify Snape for his sacrifice? Seriously, though, Joanne... is this you?

Albus's ideas keep growing wilder by every scene. But for someone who has been (at least according to himself) starved of love, and wanting to right the wrongs his father did, getting brilliant ideas to insult and publicly humiliate Cedric Diggory is a strict NO. I am really confused as to why he was portrayed as such a mean child. And James, for all the mention he gets here, could be a brick on the wall of the Potters' living room.

Harry - where do I begin? Ministry employee, strict father who, at some point, says Albus that he wished he were not his son. Harry understand what it is to have abusive words thrown at him and how it would affect self esteem and psyche. But he tells these words to his own son, something I find is way out of his original character. I am not even going to talk about Harry in alternate timelines who bosses over Minerva and insists she toes the line to the rules he lays down. The distant echo of the scene where he Crucios the Carrows because they insulted McGonagall fades away in this scene.

Overall, The cursed Child - for a story belonging to one of the most popular series ever, is quite not up to the mark. Read it if you must, but totally at your own risk. If you are happy with the way things turned out so far in the series, but still want more about the magical world, wait for the movie instead. This particularly harsh review stems from all the disappointment I felt while reading the book. It does have its moments, it does talk about the same world. But glaring plot holes and character deviations make this book a must have only if you can't have enough of the HP world. If you have read the books just for JKR, give this a miss. But if you want to read this for the trio, give it a try but be forewarned.

VERDICT:

The cursed child takes you to the same world - only, the hands that lead you there are different, and you might not feel the old, familiar comfort envelop you.

RATING: 3.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

J .K. ROWLING

J.K. Rowling is the author of the seven Harry Potter novels, which have sold over 450 million copies and have been translated into 79 languages, and three companion books originally published for charity. She is also the author of The Casual Vacancy, a novel for adults published in 2012, and, under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, is the author of the Cormoran Strike crime series. J.K. Rowling is making her screenwriting debut and is a producer on the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a further extension of the Wizarding World, due for release in November 2016.

JOHN TIFFANY

John Tiffany directed Once, for which he was the recipient of multiple awards both in the West End and on Broadway. As Associate Director of the Royal Court, his work includes The Twits, Hope and The Pass. He was the director of Let the Right One In for the National Theatre of Scotland, which transferred to the Royal Court, West End and St Ann's Warehouse. His other work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes Macbeth (also Broadway), Enquirer, The Missing, Peter Pan, The House of Bernarda Alba, Transform Caithness: Hunter, Be Near Me, Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us, The Bacchae, Black Watch, for which he won the Olivier and Critics' Circle Best Director Awards, Elizabeth Gordon Quinn and Home: Glasgow. Other recent credits include The Glass Menagerie at ART and on Broadway and The Ambassador at BAM. Tiffany was Associate Director of the National Theatre of Scotland from 2005 to 2012, and was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University in the 2010-2011 academic year.

JACK THORNE Jack Thorne writes for theatre, film, television and radio. His theatre credits include Hope and Let the Right One In, both directed by John Tiffany, The Solid Life of Sugar Water for the Graeae Theatre Company and the National Theatre, Bunny for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stacy for the Trafalgar Studios, and 2nd May 1997 and When You Cure Me for the Bush. His adaptations include The Physicists for the Donmar Warehouse and Stuart: A Life Backwards for HighTide. On film his credits include War Book, A Long Way Down and The Scouting Book for Boys. For television his credits include The Last Panthers, Don't Take My Baby, This Is England, The Fades, Glue, Cast-Offs and National Treasure. He won BAFTAs in 2016 for Best Mini-Series (This Is England '90) and Best Single Drama (Don't Take My Baby), and in 2012 for Best Drama Series (The Fades) and Best Mini-Series (This Is England '88).


EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Rs. 878.41 for the Kindle version, Rs. 575 for the Hardcover. Go figure.

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

9 comments:

  1. So apparent how you love HP <3 very detailed and well-penned! <3

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    1. Thank you :) I love the series, the author and the world. This review was very critical because it did not meet my very high expectations!

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  2. Just stopped short of reading your review Dhivya. Will do it after I read the play. Yeah, your five points about the book are pretty relevant. I knew that it's a play and also has been written by others besides JK Rowling. Though I wasn't aware of the rest. Still can't wait to read this one. It's bound to weave magic. I went and checked it out at the local Crossword bookstore and then decided to place an order on Amazon. The difference is some 300 rs. :P

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    1. Please do read my review. I am looking forward to your comments on this! When the book released, many people worked themselves up into a misdirected fury that the book was not what they expected! And yes, let us discuss the book once you have read it :) Local bookstores here sold the book at INR 720. Good thing that you went for Crossword. Did you also notice that the kindle version was priced higher? :)

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  3. Hi Dhivya, I placed my order for the book on Amazon. Luckily for me, that particular day, the book was available at 500 bucks :D
    I will get it by August 16. Will read your review after I finish reading the book

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    1. Hi I am sorry I missed this comment so much so that my reply became irrelevant! I am lousy at checking for comments :D Sorry

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  4. Hey, I seem to be posting the third comment with this :P
    I agree with you on your review - except the one about the grown wizard who wants his dead son back. He had been under the influence of a curse by his caretaker. I recollected immediately as I also had thought the same.
    The book itself - I needed to keep all my judgement away before reading it - same as I had to do while watching the films. Reading this was like having a tiny slice of the delicious whole. It's unfair to say I was disappointed, since its an awesome book. But like a typical fan "yeh dil maange more" ;)

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    1. I understood the influence the curse had on Amos Diggory, but usually Imperius leaves traces, no? That logic is flawed. I would not be reading The Cursed Child again anytime soon, but yes. My heart is now yearning for yet another installment from the HP world. We will always want more, won't we? :) That is the beauty of JKR's magic. Sigh!

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  5. It felt like reading my own thoughts. Thoughts which you shaped very artistically. I loved the review. And Thank you for highlighting some positive spoilers. I almost forgot about them in my disappointment. Between you and me, Cursed Child is totally cursed.

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Not a SPAM comment! :)