BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 

Author: JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Publisher: Little, Brown

Published: 2016

RRP: £20.00

The eighth story, nineteen years later… 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.

This special edition rehearsal script is released following the success of the two-part stage play. Working in conjunction with other writers this time, JK Rowling’s unmistakable touch has lost nothing in the tale despite its dilution by other talents. The addition of John Tiffany and Jack Thorne has added the required expertise to this new format which does need the talents of this formidable duo in order to allow both reader and actor full access to its nuance and intentions.

Unusually for a script, the stage direction is strangely evocative in an unexpected way. It is written from the character’s perspective and with a sparse efficiency that helps both reader and actor to know kind of evocation is intended while viewing the dialogue. The direction is entirely untechnical. The world on the stage exists in its entirety on the stage. Instead, ‘…it’s now wizards and witches in robes mostly trying to work out how to say goodbye to their progeny…’ and ‘Scorpius… looks at his friend talking to a girl- and part of him likes it and part of him doesn’t’. In this way the reader is directed through the story in the same way as an actor and as one is directed by a traditional narrator. There is a total lack of the exact descriptions of narrated prose and so even more is gained in the inference. The fourth wall is never broken and the universe is consistently left intact.

Without falling into the trap of making sure that every character gets a mention with closure and back story allowed for, individuals are referenced and information dropped in so cleverly that it does not feel forced. In the way that one cares about the circumstances of old friends, this absence of knowledge for key protagonists is both frustrating and tantalising but this leaves room to focus in very narrowly on the action and hopefully leaves the way open for more possible spin-off novels. By only focusing on the key relationships and story, the pace is maintained and the protagonists are therefore allowed to develop as individuals and in their relationships in a way that is not protracted or distracting.

As one would expect the tone is dark and no one is without flaw. The characters have done well but as always, Rowling has observed and embraced the fact that it is not possible to live happily ever after the traumatic events of the Battle of Hogwarts and we are confronted with this throughout. No one is unscathed. All of the characters have taken something of the battle away with them, whether it is the damage to be found in their future relationships or some personal growth of their own which has taken them down an unexpected path. Enemies have found common ground and a new generation is growing up without fear.

I cannot immediately see why the play is split into two halves, rather in the way of the Deathly Hallows, it feels as though it may be dragging things out and in fact the cliff hanger could have been left at the interval. It certainly inspires one to pay for another ticket to go and see the second half but I think reading it is an always more satisfying experience and seeing the stage play the icing on the cake in the same way it was when reading the books and then watching them realised on film.

I’m keen not to reference any of the plot in this review out of courtesy to the dedicated fans and the talent of JK Rowling herself and will only say that the pace, complexity and wonderful exploration of human relationships is as perfectly astute as always and nothing is held back from the reader. The characters are raw and damaged and beautifully written, the empathy with which even the worst of them is portrayed is as always a genuine pleasure, and I am so pleased that the other side of the grouping in terms of the Death Eaters and some of Potter’s cohort therein are given their chance to speak their minds.

With stunning denouement equally balanced in mysteries left open, I devoured this book in an hour and hope that more are to come. This is a universe I am not ready to let go and I know I join a vast array of Potter fans that are praying that Hogwart’s doors will open once again.


Rating: 5 /5

Reviewer: The Aviator

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