Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pretend book club: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I'm a fiction reader, through and through. I do not enjoy reading non-fiction, unless it's a biography or a behind-the-scenes. I'm the WORST at keeping up with what's popular in the non-fiction Christian literature world. If you ask me what I thought about _______ popular faith-building book, I will 99% of the time tell you, very sheepishly, that I haven't read it (not mentioning that I have zero plans to change that status). It's bad, y'all.

I used to try to make myself read the things I thought I should read, even if it felt torturous. I've begun doing less and less of that as I've gotten older. I've embraced my fiction love and just run with it- as evidenced by my love of Harry Potter and Narnia well into my 30's. I've made my peace.

Last year, J.K. Rowling (author of Harry Potter) collaborated with John Tiffany and Jack Thorne to write and produce a play that tags onto her original series: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play has been running in London for a while now, and it was published last summer in book form for the masses. My Daddy, being the excellent man that he is, bought it for me right away. I started it ages ago but just finished it a couple months ago (and am just now writing about it. My life, guys.).

I was EXTREMELY skeptical going into this book. I love Harry Potter. It's very dear to my heart, so adding something onto such a marvelous canon seemed quite dangerous. And while I won't go so far as to say that I loved it, I will say it wasn't as bad as I expected and that I came away thinking, "Huh. I *think* I liked that?"

That's not very helpful as an assessment, is it? I'll break it down some.

Things that I enjoyed:
1. While I thought many elements of the plot intrigue were contrived and far-fetched (you know...within the world of fantasy that is already far-fetched), I did enjoy the creativity and how they eventually tied the pieces together. It wasn't as smooth and comprehensive as I imagine Rowling would have done all on her own, but it wasn't awful. Even interesting. Eventually. It took a while to get a groove.

2. They made some decent attempts to give character backgrounds that fans have been craving since 2007. We got a few little glimpses into how the characters *might have* grown and developed in the intervening years, which made me happy (even if some of the stories aren't what I think should have happened). There is some measure of closure in that.

3. They brought a mythical/magical creature into prominence in this story that was only mentioned once (that I can think of) in passing in the original stories. I thought that was creative and followed well in Rowling's footsteps of incrementally and naturally integrating new creatures.

Things I did not enjoy:
1. I do not think they kept the integrity of several of the characters intact. They altered Harry's character in a way that I was very unhappy with, particularly. I found that unacceptable.

2. There was an inconsistency (I think that's the word I'm looking for) woven throughout. Now, I will grant that because this is a play, which requires a certain amount of choppiness (scene breaks, stage directions), keeping consistency is a little different than in a novel. However, so many parts of the story seemed to happen abruptly or didn't feel particularly well-connected to other parts, which made it less believable (again, given that this is fantasy). 

3. An important element of the plot (as in, the most important twist) reminded me almost too much of a motif used in two of the original books. On the one hand, I guess that could be considered a form of consistency, but it read a little bit unoriginal to me. It reminded me very much of the first conversation I ever had with Brad about Harry Potter, wherein he told me he'd only read the first one because he thought it was too contrived of a plot twist that was unimpressive and *almost* predictable. (Incidentally, I was really unimpressed myself by his analysis. Thankfully, we overcame that hurdle in our relationship, he has read the rest of the series, and he likes it very much.).

I think I'll need to re-read it, actually, in order to feel confident in my opinion. I'm so very familiar with the original books and the tone of the wizarding world that this book feels foreign to me. It's not bad, but it is foreign. I'm willing to give it another shot, though. In my spare time. :)

Have any of you read it? What did you think?
P.S. If I were in London, I would ABSOLUTELY want to go see this. Do not get me wrong.

1 comment:

Kat said...

As always, I really enjoyed your analysis. I can't pretend that I enjoyed Cursed Child, I just didn't. I very much agree with you that I would see it as a play and that the play format probably was a significant factor in my distaste for the book.

However, I did give the book a fair shot because I didn't know it was written in "collaboration," aka ghost written, until a few chapters into the book. I kept clear of all info about the book/play until it was in my hands. Reading it was like slipping into something familiar, but realizing it doesn't quite fit. They were not the characters I knew and loved, more like ghosts from Hogwarts that are imprints of their once living counterparts. Like you, I was very disappointed by some of the choices they forced upon beloved characters.

I also think that the authors (and J.K. in the original canon) play very lightly with time travel and don't really think through the depths of those decisions. I may consider reading again, but I'm not really sure. Maybe if my literary friend convinced me it was worth it ;)