Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition)

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_harry_potter_and_the_cursed_child_1and2The announcement that J.K. Rowling was releasing an eighth instalment of the Harry Potter story was greeted with massive excitement worldwide. Another rollicking adventure with our much loved, familiar, favourite characters! Let’s rejoice!

Let me disabuse you of those notions now. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is 1) a play, and 2) not actually written by Rowling herself. Instead, playwright Jack Thorne wrote the script, based on a story written by Rowling, Thorne, and the play’s director John Tiffany. Furthermore, the action takes place nineteen years after the events of Deathly Hallows (essentially carrying on from that novel’s Epilogue). As such, the beloved characters of Harry Potter are present in Cursed Child, but in rather different form. Harry, Ron and Hermione are all grown adults, with jobs and kids and adult pressures and responsibilities.

Harry in particular is not the sometimes troubled impulsive teenager from the books. Instead he’s tired, overworked from his Ministry job, and perplexed by his inability to connect with this son Albus (who seems to have taken on the mantle of ‘resentful “woe is me” teenage boy’, so ably presented to us by fifteen-year-old Harry in Order of the Phoenix).

In general, I found the changes in the characters understandable and refreshing without being jarring. It was quite nice to see that grown-up Ron no longer has the emotional range of a teaspoon, and it was understandable to me that Harry would be at a loss as to how to parent his resentful son; plenty of parents would be, and Harry, being an orphan, would be at a particular disadvantage since he never had a father on whom he could base his own parenting. The overall theme of the play was, indeed, fathers and their children—how to be a father, and the struggle to shake off and live up to the shadow of your own. As such, the play was also thematically more grown up than the books.

Cursed Child is a play (or, more accurately, it’s the rehearsal script of the play—the definitive version of the script, complete with final stage directions and annotations, will be published in 2017). Since it’s a play script, Cursed Child suffers by comparison to the books. It lacks the books’ richness of detail and world-building aspects—and necessarily so. Those details would have been left to the play’s production and staging team, and as such, reading Cursed Child is like reading only half of the story. It feels a little anaemic. Luckily though, the characters jump off the page. Scorpius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy’s son, is particularly memorable, hilarious and endearingly dorky—completely unlike his father.

The plot is also compelling—a typically Rowling-esque page-turning romp, which also gives us the chance to revisit familiar people and places from the books (a clear crowd-pleasing manoeuvre, but entertaining nonetheless). One particular plot device seemed a little too convenient, but in general the machinery of the plot worked well, and the result was a script that is enjoyable and compulsively readable.

Cursed Child isn’t, however, comparable to the books—it feels limited by the change in medium, and the timeshift and subsequent change in characters may well be enough to put off some fans. Nevertheless, it’s still worth reading—not least for the little snippets of new information it reveals of the HP universe we love and thought we already knew.

Reviewed by Feby Idrus

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition)
by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
Published by Little, Brown
ISBN 9780751565355

Book Review: Very Good Lives, by JK Rowling

cv_very_good_livesAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

In 2008, JK Rowling, at the height of her fame, was asked to deliver the commencement speech for the graduating class at Harvard University. A daunting prospect for anyone, which Rowling candidly admits gave her ‘weeks of fear and nausea’. She is human after all.

She chose her subject matter based on what she wish she had been told when she graduated at the age of 21, and comes up with two things – the fringe benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination – two subjects she is well qualified to speak on, not because she went to university and learnt these things but because she has actually lived them. At the age of 21 of course, being a Harvard graduate, the concept of failure is laughable. But as all of us older, life experienced souls know, failure can happen to anyone, at any time. As for imagination, the very act of taking time to listen and to learn other people’s stories prods the imagination centre of the brain, as in our empathy, we can experience to some degree what we are being told. JK Rowling’s time in her early twenties working at Amnesty International taught her this.

This little book is the speech she gave to the graduates of Harvard in 2008. It is very inspirational, very personal, beautifully worded and crafted. For the Harvard graduates who heard this speech, time has probably dulled its effect somewhat, although I would like to think that something of it stayed with them. But for us, the reader, this little book of her speech, with simple but powerful illustrations is something we can go back to time and time again for a reread, a kick in the pants, or a quiet space and few minutes to shed a wee tear.

Reviewed by Felicity Murray

Very Good Lives
by JK Rowling
Published by Sphere
ISBN 9781408706787

Email digest: Wed 4 July 2012

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Events and happenings
Page & Blackmore will be having Afternoon Tea in the shop on National Poetry Day Friday 27th July at 3pm. Bring along your favourite poem to read. All Welcome. [no link]

Book News
Helen McAleer named Chief Global Development Officer at Walker Books

American publisher revives interest in one of Australia’s best-known writers

New and upcoming releases

Lonely Planet has NZ covered with four new guidebooks in 2012

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

From around the internet

So many Wal-Marts, so few libraries. Wal-Mart Converted into a Library

The Jack Reacher teaser trailer is here, starring Tom Cruise as Reacher.

Book lover Paula Green in today’s NZ Herald

Office antics

Just another day at the BooksellersNZ office