“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” – Shakespeare
So. Many. Thoughts. Where do I begin? Perhaps at the very beginning – when a little magical baby survived a deadly attack from a very cruel wizard setting in motion events that culminated in the Battle of Hogwarts in which the evil wizard was finally defeated. But what if the magical baby did not survive? Or what if that cruel wizard did not kill him? What would have happened then and what would the world of Harry Potter look like today?
The Cursed Child may be a story in the future but its feet are planted in the past. At the heart of it is the misunderstood Albus Potter and his troubled relationship with his father, Harry. Albus is Harry’s middle child, mediocre in his magical prowess, forever in his dad’s shadow and a Slytherin. Can you imagine being a Potter and a Slytherin? Though 22 years have passed, the prejudice dividing the houses remains unchanged. He is further alienated from his friends and family because of his close friendship with Scorpius, Draco Malfoy’s son. Scorpius is rumored son of Voldemort which makes him very unpopular in school. Scorpius maybe Draco’s son but to me he seemed to be Ron & Hermoine’s progeny. He is funny yet nerdy and by far the most lovable new character in the series.
All through the story, Harry and Albus have a difficult relationship. Albus resents that his father’s celebrity status and is determined to find his flaws. Harry does not know how to deal with this moody, rebellious kid. Their failing relationship drives impetus to Albus’s mission to undo the wrongs of his father. A chance encounter with the Diggorys, Amos and Delphini, set Albus and Scorpius on a quest to reverse the past and save Cedric Diggory’s life. Time-Turners come into play and famous landmarks are revisited. We skirt the forbidden forest, swim through the pipes in the 1st floor girls’ bathroom at Hogwarts, take a dive into the Hogwart’s lake and find ourselves inside the Whomping Willow. Every time Albus goes into the past, he changes the future. The Cursed Child is a chance for JK Rowling to legitimize all the alternate endings which would have swirled in her head when she wrote Harry Potter the first time. There is a lot of fan service as we go back to some of the most pivotal events of the series. The most poignant is when we along with Harry witnesses the death of Potter’s parents – the gravity of letting fate take its place for the greater good.
I found the book to be surprisingly consistent to most characters. It’s not strange that Harry is not the greatest dad, he had after all very little experience with his own parents. It’s also not unusual that he is a bit self-absorbed by his past. He has been a celebrity since he was 11 years old and no one lets him forget it. He of course suffers from PTSD. Hermione has become the Minister of Magic and continues to be bright and resourceful. Ron has been reduced to a bumbling idiot – which was his point wasn’t it? Hermione’s daughter would of-course be named Granger-Weasely. All three of them would of course be celebrities – their lives well documented and well known.
This books is full of self-references and tongue in cheek humour. The irony of Albus, Scorpius & Delphi polyjuicing into the Ministry of Magic as Ron, Harry and Hermione isn’t lost on us. Inside jokes abound – lax security of Hogwarts, how you ‘must’ find life-long friendship on you first time in Hogwarts Express and so on.
There has been criticism on the quality of writing and stupidity of the story arches of The Cursed Child. I wholeheartedly agree. The writing is sloppy and simplistic at times. Scenes are wrought with high emotions. In one scene Dumbledore & Harry are crying and declaring their love for each other (not what it sounds like!) which seems quite out of character. Two young kids hoodwinking enchantments set by Hermione in the library scene seems far-fetched. Hermione repeatedly fooled experts when she was 17 – there is no way her enchantments would be this lame. What really saddens me is that somehow with age Harry & Hermione have become more of the politicians and less of the righteous wizard that we knew.
JK Rowling’s strength has always been in the storytelling – intricate plotlines that form pieces of a larger puzzle that keep coming together. She loves exploring relationships – with a lot of focus on friendships and familial bonds. You see patterns in our first seven books. Harry’s abusive childhood would lead him to form strong attachments with Hogwarts and the people he met there. With Albus, the story is inverted. Hogwarts is place he hates. But both share an unhappy childhood and both feel isolated. Both carry resentment for the life they were given are quick to anger and reckless. Both rely on friends over family. Both share a love for foolish adventure.
As The Cursed Child is a script, readers have complained that it doesn’t do a great job in creating a visual spectacle of magic that prose format does. I don’t necessarily agree. Magical is secondary in this story. The assumption is that the people reading are inherently familiar with the world of Harry Potter. Magic just happens and does not need to be explained. The story is really about love and friendship and loss. It’s about good versus evil. That’s what Harry Potter has always been about.