Saturday, August 6, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2016 (Hardcover)
Length: 327 pages
Genre: Children's/Young Adult/Adult; Fantasy
Started: August 5, 2016
Finished: August 6, 2016

From the inside cover:

Nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts...

It was always difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the eighth Harry Potter story and the first to be officially presented on stage. This special rehearsal edition of the script brings the continued journey of Harry Potter and his friends and family to readers everywhere immediately following the play's world premiere in London's West End on July 30, 2016.

The stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender, and Harry Potter Theatrical Productions.

Harry Potter had a considerable effect on my childhood. I was a teenager when the first book was published, but I still read them voraciously throughout my teenage years and saw the movies with my friend years later when they came out. Now, at least in some of the schools I've taught in, the first Harry Potter book is used as a novel study in grade 9 classes, and almost all kids are at least familiar with the movies if not both the books and films. The novels are considered a staple in household libraries, and families flock to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida. So needless to say, it was a no-brainer to pick up the newest instalment.

This new story and script takes place where the Deathly Hallows left off, with an adult Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron seeing their children off to Hogwarts years later. The script mainly focuses on Albus Severus Potter, Harry and Ginny's second son (after oldest son James and younger daughter Lily) and his struggles at Hogwarts and how he copes with being the son of the infamous Harry Potter. He is sorted and begins a surprising friendship with Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco. Albus overhears a conversation between Amos Diggory and his father, after which he takes it upon himself to change the course of history and takes Scorpius along for the ride.

I won't say much for fear of spoilers, but I was quite satisfied with the story itself. It is a script, so you only have the dialogue and scant direction notes to follow, so of course you will have a different impression of if when you see it performed on stage or even listening to an audio-only version (same principle behind why we teach Shakespeare plays with the audio books or a BBC movie production). Based on the story itself, I quite enjoyed it; it shows all the original characters as near middle-aged adults rather than teenagers, as mothers and fathers with different priorities and readers get to see how those manifest in their personalities we've come to know. I liked the things the play did focus on, like how did Harry's children deal with being in the spotlight all the time, how does Harry cope with having a child with a different personality from his, what are the consequences for the adult characters regarding the choices of their teenage years? Those are the areas I wanted to see addressed in a story taking place many years after the original novels, and I was pleased with what was presented. Other readers might not be awe-struck, and it probably won't blow you away plot-wise, it's more of a play about relationships between characters rather than relying heavily on plot. I do admit that the play does read like fan fiction at times, and though that is fine by me, some readers might be completely turned off by it. Some of the lines of dialogue actually made me tear up a bit, but granted since becoming a mom I can cry at the drop of a hat at anything sappy regarding kids. I really enjoyed Albus and particularly Scorpius as characters, and would love to see this story actually performed on stage one day.

Obviously if you're a Harry Potter fan, you've either already got your hands on this or are in the process of obtaining and reading it. If you haven't and enjoyed the original novels, you should read this, just go into it remembering that it is a script, so though it is a quick read you only have lines of dialogue here which doesn't provide as much insight as a full fledged novel written in prose.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very pretty, I love the gold and black/brown colour scheme. I'm trying to figure out who the child in the middle of the nest is supposed to be (I'm assuming Albus?)

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