I want to talk about this book so bad! I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I know things might slip, so go on only if you have already read the book, or if you don’t care about spoilers.
Okay, are you ready?
Last chance to leave!
Here we go!
This has to be the most emotional, heart-wrenching Harry Potter story in the whole series. Whereas the previous seven books were full of adventure, Cursed Child focuses more on bonds between friends, and between fathers and sons. This is not to say that there is no adventure, because there is a whole lot of it. Time-turners play a huge role in the plot, so you can only imagine the stakes. But what propels the story is the relationships.
Before Cursed Child was released, J.K. Rowling made it very clear that this was not the eighth book. It’s the eighth story, yes, but it is the script of the play. I suppose she wanted to set the proper expectations because a book and a play are two entirely different storytelling devices.
So I had huge misgivings about it. I hate reading plays, and I was afraid it would be like Shakespeare, with complicated stage directions. I was also concerned that there wouldn’t be much of a story left. Because let’s face it, Rowling has been very generous with all the additional stories she’s published on Pottermore. Honestly I haven’t been able to keep up with all the material, there’s so many. So I thought to myself, what else is left? Another concern I had was how different it was going to be. Harry Potter has felt like home ever since I first got hooked, reading them out of order and starting with Goblet of Fire, no less! Would it still feel like the same world?
In a word, yes! First of all, it is not difficult to read. The stage directions are minimal and don’t detract from the reading experience, but they are enough to set the scene. The whole thing reads like simple dialogue, which actually makes it easier. It distills everything to the meat of the story. It does not feel contrived or forced, like the worst sequels or reimaginings of classic stories tend to be. It stands on its own merits. The prose and style are still the same, and the characters are still familiar to us. And the best part is, even after seeing all the movies and the new actors in the play, as I read it I still pictured Harry, Ron, and Hermione the way I originally did in my head. Sometimes seeing a movie ruins how we see the characters in our imagination when we go back to the books. But not in this case. It was still book-Harry in my mind (albeit a bit older).
I wasn’t even halfway through, and already I was bawling. You know how in some TV shows, they get around the death of a character by showing them in flashbacks so we still get to see them? Well, Cursed Child employs a similar technique (remember, Time-Turners!) And yes, we are reunited with some old favorites. After all, it was Rowling who taught us that “the ones who love us never truly leave us”. And even in different, or shall we say, “alternate” situations, heroes will always be heroes. Please excuse me while I cry over here for a wee bit.
[SOME SPOILERS HERE]
I also want to say thank you to J.K. Rowling for how she treated Ron and Hermione’s story. She has said that she thinks Hermione should have ended up with Harry. Personally, I felt betrayed by that statement. It was like an artist destroying her own creation just to indulge herself. And what about those of us who actually liked that creation? I was a bit angry at Miss Rowling for that. But let’s just say that in Cursed Child, she makes it clear that whatever her own feelings are, the Ron and Hermione ship is still steady and going strong, no matter what iteration or form it may take.
I’ve read some critiques that the format of the book left some reviewers wanting more, that the stage directions were too vague and that you have to see the play to appreciate it. To which I say, well duh. We are reading a script, after all. Let’s allow the playwrights some secrets for the actual production! And if you can’t rely on your imagination to supply the missing pieces for yourself, then I feel sorry for you.
If anything, the only complaint I have with the format is that I know there were fewer words used than if it was prose. I just wanted more words because I didn’t want it to end!
It wasn’t only the story itself that made me cry. It was also the reunion with these characters we’ve known for 19 or so years. It’s like seeing old friends again, after thinking that they’d gone away forever. And quite simply because, even though Harry is all grown up, he is still the boy who lived and the boy we all fell in love with.
I remember that Harry Potter was the very first book which made me want to read it over again the moment I got to the last page. As a reader, I thought, is that allowed? Well, yes. And so I did.
And now I’ll be here in my corner, crying and reading Cursed Child again. The magic is still alive, people!