Friday, August 12, 2016
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts I & II, by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts I & II (J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany; Scholastic Press, 2016) is a time-travel novel, whose plot as a result follows a predictable arc. Characters go back in time (using a magic Time Turner) to change a crucial event (the murder of Cedric Diggory). When they return to the present they discover the unhappy consequences of their meddling. Then they have to return to the past again to try to set right their actions, and more unhappy consequences ensue, and so on. At a certain point, I suffered fatigue from this plot. However, I must say that the strength of the characters in the end overrode the fatigue. It was such a pleasure to reencounter the characters from the Harry Potter series, even if, in this narrative, they’re approaching middle age. Even if what we have here is a two-part play, not a novel. Even if J. K. Rowling shared writing credits with Thorne and Tiffany (the three of them wrote the story; Thorne scripted the play). Despite that fact, Rowling’s touch is evident throughout, partially because most of the characters are ones we already know. This makes it unnecessary for the writers of this new book to provide much exposition, which for the most part is already in our heads (if we read the Harry Potter novels, or saw the films). Here Harry Potter is, as usual, struggling with a challenge—not how and whether to accept his fate as the Boy who Lived, but rather with how to get along with his youngest son, Albus Severus. Albus feels that his father disapproves of him, feels unable to live up to his father’s example, and this become a motive in his decision to use the Time Turner to return to the past in order to prove his mettle. His best friend is, ironically, Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco, Harry Potter’s great nemesis. Draco is less an enemy and more an anguished man grieving for his dead wife and worried about the welfare of his only son. The characters here are convincing. They’re consistent with the characters of the earlier Potter novels, and though the story here uses and touches on aspects of the earlier novels, there’s no sense of recycling. The story is fresh and exciting, and I can imagine how well it comes across on stage (although the required special effects would be a challenge).