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I’m sure it works better on stage. And probably most of the millions of Harry Potter fans who grabbed a copy of the eighth installment of the adventures of the boy wizard don’t care about its deficiencies.
I knew it was the script of the play that opened in London at the end of July. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t buy it – I would have preferred a novelization. But I was able to get a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the library and devoured it in an afternoon.
J.K. Rowling has sold 450 million books in the Harry Potter series, so it’s obvious he’s a popular character. I have had mixed feelings about the series, which I read initially because my children wanted to read the books and I liked to keep current as to what they were ingesting.
I could go into great lengths of what I think are Rowling’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer, but I won’t. After all, she doesn’t criticize my skills. In summary though, I thought the first three Harry Potter novels work better as movies, but by the time she reached the fourth one her writing had improved and the subsequent books were better than the films made of them. Which is not to be taken as an endorsement but rather as an observation. Her work for adults, under her own name (and writing as Robert Galbraith) I have enjoyed much more than the Potter series.
The reason I think the Cursed Child works as a play and not as a read is that as a play I am sure the action keeps you going. You follow what the actors are doing. On the printed page there is more time to reflect on what you are reading. Which is what I did.
The plot hinges on time travel. It’s a touchy subject. Many science fiction writers have addressed the idea, and most have failed, finding themselves in paradoxes and logical inconsistencies. In my mind Rowling fails. The story is entertaining enough, but if you are going to change the past not once but multiple times, you need to make your changes logical. To me the ones in Cursed Child aren’t. But maybe that is too much quibbling on my part.
This is a book for the committed, for those who have read the previous seven novels (or seen the eight films made from them). There is no backstory here. Even on stage I can see that many scenes would be confusing if you didn’t know the background. Simple example: the “floo” system of traveling is used, but never explained. But since you read the books you don’t need me to explain it to you. I suspect though that there are not a lot of people who will use this book (or play) as their entry point to Harry Potter’s world. So maybe I’m just quibbling again.
As for the story itself, Harry is an adult now, facing adult problems, including how to be a good parent. Those who first discovered him with the first novel are probably facing the same situations and asking the same questions, except without the magic. I liked the way Rowling addressed the concepts (although I’m not sure how much input she had into this work and how much came from her two co-writers. By bringing Harry’s children into the mix she allows herself the opportunity for a whole new series which could attract a new generation of younger readers.
If you are a fan of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books this is a must-read. If you haven’t read the first seven, I don’t know why you would bother with this one. It’s just not good enough on its own.