Tag Archives: J. K. Rowling

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

HPCursedChild

A couple weeks ago I was walking past the local indie bookstore and noticed a sign in the window advertising a midnight release party for this book. I mentioned it to my daughter and asked if she wanted to go, and she enthusiastically said yes. So we gathered together with all the Potter fans, participated in games, and enjoyed the costume contest. Then we queued up with the rest of the folk there and purchased our copy of the book. Of course, I had to wait until my daughter was finished reading it before it was moved into my pile, but she read it fairly quickly and I was able to start reading it.

Since the book is in play form, it is a quick read. I was a little apprehensive about whether I would like the book, especially since so much of what I love about the Harry Potter series is Rowling’s wonderful narrative. But because these characters are such a part of our social fabric, it was easy to envision the scenes even without the descriptive narrative.

Without giving too much away, the tale features Harry’s son, Albus, and his friend Scorpius (Draco Malfoy’s son). After an argument with his dad, Albus decides to use a time-turner to go into the past and save Cedric Diggory, thereby proving his worth. As you can expect, changing the past has unforeseen ripple effects. Enough said.

What I enjoyed the most about this book is the exploration of the conflict between father and son. It’s an age-old theme that hearkens back to Sophocles. Children at some point usually rebel against their parents, and it is often during the teenage years that these tensions and conflicts begin to surface.

There is a great scene early in the play where the tension between father and son finally erupts into a fight, and as is often the case, things are said in the heat of anger that are not intended but nevertheless have painful results.

HARRY: Do you want a hand? Packing. I always loved packing. It meant I was leaving Privet Drive and going back to Hogwarts. Which was . . . well, I know you don’t love it but . . .

ALBUS: For you, it’s the greatest place on earth. I know. The poor orphan, bullied by his uncle and aunt Dursley . . .

HARRY: Albus, please—can we just—

ALBUS: . . . traumatized by his cousin, Dudley, saved by Hogwarts. I know it all, Dad. Blah, blah, blah.

HARRY: I’m not going to rise to your bait, Albus Potter.

ALBUS: The poor orphan who went on to save us all. So may I say—on behalf of the wizarding kind—how grateful we are for your heroism. Should we bow now or will a curtsy do?

HARRY: Albus, please—you know, I’ve never wanted gratitude.

ALBUS: But right now I’m overflowing with it—it must be the kind gift of the moldy blanket that did it . . .

HARRY: Moldy blanket?

ALBUS: What did you think would happen? We’d hug. I’d tell you I always loved you. What? What?

HARRY (finally losing his temper): You know what? I’m done with being made responsible for your unhappiness. At least you’ve got a dad. Because I didn’t, okay?

ALBUS: And you think that was unlucky? I don’t.

HARRY: You wish me dead?

ALBUS: No! I just wish you weren’t my dad.

HARRY (seeing red): Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.

(pp. 40 – 41)

I suspect we have all said things that we regretted saying. I know I have. And that is what makes this book worth reading. It holds up a mirror and allows us to look at our flaws. And we all have flaws; it’s part of being human. But how we deal with our flaws determines the type of person we become in life, or as Harry puts it:

They were great men, with huge flaw, and you know what—those flaws almost made them greater.

(p. 308)

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“The Casual Vacancy” by J. K. Rowling

CasualVacancyShortly after this book was released, I perused some of the reader reactions online. It appeared that people either loved the book or hated it. I did not see many middle-of-the-road responses. This reminded me of something I learned in creative writing, that a strong response, either good or bad, is best. I decided not to indulge myself too much in the reviews but to instead read the book and come to my own conclusion.

Overall, I liked this book, but I won’t go so far as to say I loved it. It’s very much a tragedy in the Shakespearean sense, and I like tragic stories. The story is very plot-driven, which makes for an engaging read, but I would have liked to have a little more nuance to mull over. What can I say; I’m a book geek and I like to pick apart and analyze text.

For me, the strongest and most interesting aspect of this book is the way Rowling captures the language of the residents of the Fields. It is an English slang and it took finesse to present it in a way that seems natural. I could actually hear the cadence of the language in my mind as I read and this helped bring the characters to life for me. I’ll provide a short example where Terri, a resident of the Fields, is conversing with Kay, a social worker. The contrast between the two voices demonstrates how well Rowling captures the language.

   “Terri, Mrs. Harper told me that Robbie has been absent a lot over the last three months. He hasn’t had a full week for a while, has he?”
   “Wha’?” said Terri. “No, ‘e ain’. Yeah, ‘e ‘as. ‘E only jus’ mist yesterday. An’ when ‘e had his sore throat.”
   “When was that?”
   “Wha’? Monf ‘go…monf ‘na ‘alf…’bout.”
(p. 108)

Rowling uses an interesting convention in building up to the tragic climax near the end (don’t worry, I won’t give any spoilers). The pace of the story increases and events are broken into shorter and shorter snippets that build to a crescendo until the final tragic scene is played out. It worked well for me and I found myself reading faster and faster until the tragedy was complete. I was then able to stop, relax for a minute, and finish the rest of the book.

As I read this book, I couldn’t help comparing it with the Harry Potter books. It would have been futile to try. I came to the conclusion that Rowling made a conscious effort to write something as different from Harry Potter as possible, to free herself from the artistic constraints. I think she was successful in that respect and she wrote a good book. My only hope is that if she writes another book that she is able to somehow combine the new writing style evident in The Casual Vacancy with the imagination of Harry Potter. If she can do that, she will have a masterpiece.

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