I love the Harry Potter books and have them all—each of the seven books in the series. I discovered them in 2000 after the first three had already been published and was so hooked that I recall pre-ordering each of the subsequent books prior to its release and devouring it right away after it was delivered—which was typically the day before it was officially released. And while I was thrilled when my kids also started to read and love the books as they grew older, I made it clear that the books were mine. In time, after frequent re-reading by my kids, whenever one of my Harry Potter books started to wear down, I would order another copy— hardcover, of course—so I would still have the complete set in near-pristine condition. In fact, I was so possessive about the books that I used to discourage my kids from lending my cherished copies to their friends, and even bought extra (paperback) copies just for this purpose!
Given my love for the books and the magical world that J.K. Rowling has so brilliantly created—so rich, so vivid, so detailed, and so much fun—I was really disappointed when the series concluded in 2007 with the publication of the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But I could appreciate why. After all, J.K. Rowling could not continue the series endlessly—not only was she so rich and famous that she didn’t need to write any more, but to what extent can you drag a story on and on? Also, one of the charms of the Harry Potter books was that you knew they would come to an end after Harry defeats Voldemort and is finished with school. It was a good, satisfying conclusion to the saga of “the boy who lived.”
Thus, when I heard of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it seemed intriguing, even though it was in the form of a script for a play and was not actually written by J.K. Rowling herself, but rather by a playwright based on a story by her, supposedly the eighth in the series. While the play itself debuted last month in London and seems to be doing very well, the book itself has received mixed reviews from Harry Potter fans. Thus, I bought it with some trepidation, not wanting to cast a shadow on my experience of the original series and ruin my love for it.
It turned out that I needn’t have worried. I really enjoyed the book and finished it in one sitting. Even though the plot is set several years after the first seven books—Harry is now middle aged with three kids, all of whom are in the same Hogwarts School that he attended—the book keeps transporting you to many of the same events that happened in those years through the clever use of a time traveling device, the Time Turner, that plays such a key role in the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While the protagonist of the book is now Harry’s middle son, Albus, who could be the “cursed child” of the book title, the book brings back all the characters who had key roles in the earlier books, including Hermoine, Ron, Malfoy, Snape, and even Dumbledore. In an unexpected but heart-warming twist, Albus’s best friend at Hogwarts is now Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy, who was Harry’s archenemy throughout his own time as a student at Hogwarts. And there are many hilarious situations caused by the ripple effects of going back in time and changing certain events, including one where Ron is married to Padma (a Hogwarts student who made a very brief appearance in the earlier books) and has a son called “Panju.” As an Indian, I’m still laughing at that one!
That said, I wish the story was in the more conventional form of a book than a script for a play, which, by its very nature, is forced to be somewhat choppy. I really liked the plot of this eighth story in the series and felt it would have been so much more substantial and enjoyable as a book. I have no interest in seeing the play just as I had little interest in the movies—although, admittedly, they did a good job of capturing the “magic” of Harry Potter’s world. Of course, the books have spawned a huge and very successful franchise with the movies, theme parks, and merchandise, and it’s a wonder to me that J.K. Rowling is even motivated to continue the series at all. I’m thankful, however, that the creative genius in her continues to create, bringing joy to the millions of Harry Potter aficionados that are out there, including adults like me who may otherwise be somewhat jaded by the “realities” of life.
Such is the power of the world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling that I was fighting with my daughter about who got to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child first. I prevailed, of course, but only because of my childish and rather pathetic excuse that I had paid for the book and so I should get to read it first. When does this ever happen?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Play written by Jack Thorne, based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.
Publisher: Little Brown UK
Publication Date: July 2016
Contributor: Lachmi Khemlani runs a technology publication in the San Francisco Bay Area.