Published: 31st July 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Books, Imprint of Hachette
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
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 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.
Okay, where to start with this one …
What have you done?
I, uh, I opened a book. Something which has – in all my years on this planet – never been a particularly dangerous activity.
*Deep breath Jess*
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is has been the source of endless confusion and controversy since the very first announcement regarding it back in June of 2015. Then again in September of the same year when it was announced that the play would be split into two parts, and again in October of last year when the news exploded with the acknowledgement that the play would be set 19 years after the final book in the series and a script book would be released to coincide with the plays official release on 31st July 2016.
In a move brilliantly devised and carried out by everyone involved, very little was known about the story and what we were going to be reading until the book was officially released from international embargo at 9.01am AEST on Sunday 31st July. Like hundreds of other fans, I stood outside my local store waiting for their doors to open and the book to be available to buy before rushing home to devour the play before spoilers. At this time, I didn’t know that the synopsis had been released and I largely went into the book blind and without much expectation. I knew the book was written as a play script, and that didn’t bother me in the slightest as I’m used to editing screen scripts. I knew it was the Harry Potter universe and that was good enough for me.
This book divided fans, but personally I loved being back in the universe. Being able to experience something new from that world once more for the first time was kind of indescribable, as I can’t even hazard a guess at how many times I have re-read the entire Harry Potter series to date. The 19 year gap between the last book and this one didn’t bother me. In fact the only thing that bothered me was the fear that given how open J. K. Rowling has been lately with what she would have done differently now (i.e. her pairings etc) that she would have changed everything and completely have destroyed the characters and the fandom in so doing. Turns out I didn’t have to worry too much about that though.
In essence, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set 19 years after the battle of Hogwarts. Despite the name, and his presence in the play, it is actually centred around Harry’s son Albus Potter and how he deals with living in the shadow of his forever famous father. It’s a story that made me laugh and cry. It tore me up inside and urged me to race the pages to the end. It’s a story about family, friendship, courage and history and despite it’s issues, it’s kind of brilliant.
The play script format of this book was easy to read. It actually made the entire book easier to read in many ways and I think makes it more accessible to younger readers. it was fast paced and refreshingly entertaining.
What I didn’t realise however until the day the book was released, was that the book WAS NOT actually written by J. K. Rowling. This was explained to me on the day by my script writing sister who explained the order of the names on the book’s cover and has been a source of discontentment for many fans upon realisation. Although it was well advertised that the book was in script form, somehow the acknowledge that it was a collaborative effort by J. K. Rowling, play director John Tiffany and script writer/playwright Jack Thorne went relatively unnoticed. Play scripts acknowledge contributors in order of how much they contributed to the process; hence the ordering of the names. Clearly J. K. Rowling would be first mentioned because she owns the characters and the world, and as far as I cant tell was vital in the story’s idea, but it was John Tiffany and Jack Thorne who initiated the play by contacting Rowling about the prospect of it happening and the thing snowballed form there. John Tiffany directed the play, and thus was influential to the play’s staging, but it was Jack Thorne’s words that we read and have in many ways misappropriated as Rowling’s.
The fact that Rowling didn’t write the script itself becomes very clear when you read the script (and thus the reason I mention all of the above). See I knew she didn’t write it while reading and I was content with the format and I can distinctly recall thinking Jack Thorne has nailed J. K. Rowling’s voice and what a surprise and a relief that was. Until he didn’t. The first bit of the script read beautifully. I had no idea where the story was going and I didn’t care. But after reading it for a bit the story started to slide a bit and we lost Rowling’s voice and then it became a bit fan-fiction-y.
Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against fan fiction. A lot of great books have gotten published because of it. And I for one used to write Harry Potter Fan Fiction in my teens, so I’m certainly not judging. But there are whole scenario’s that play out and events that happen that I know I’ve read on sites like fanfiction.net. At first that alarmed me (I’m not going to go in to detail as to what those scenario’s are because I’m avoiding any time of spoiler), and then it confused me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s worked well into the context of the story I guess, but there is just this distinct feel of fan-fiction going on. Over all it didn’t effect my reading of the story, because the whole concept of this play and the script’s very existence is in fact fan fiction to a point. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child IS NOT part of the original story or series, it’s something that was creatively designed years after the fact with the creator’s input, but it’s not written by her at all. And that shows.
To be honest, I’m actually rather jealous of all the lucky people in London who have managed to score ticket’s to see the play performed. As I was reading the play, I kept wondering how they would stage some aspects and could visually see a lot of it playing out before me thanks to the format I was reading. It was kind of refreshing, but devastating at the same time, because unless they film it and release the DVD, I’m not likely to every get the chance to see this play performed 😦
How to distract Scorpius from difficult emotional issues.
Talk him to a library.
All in all, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a quick and easy read that allows die hard Harry Potter fans the chance to revisit some of our most loved characters (both living and dead). It’s a beautiful book both in appearance (those end pages are stunning) and by subject/content. The story itself touched me in a way I wasn’t expecting and despite it’s fan fiction nature, I did really enjoy this script book.
To learn more about this book, or to purchase a copy, visit the following online retailers:
Hachette | Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | QBD | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld | Worderly | The Nile |