“It’s tough to live with people stuck in the past, isn’t it?”
I struggled with whether or not to even review The Cursed Child. Reading the script of a play and then commenting on it is like smelling food and then having to decide whether or not it’s tasty. I’ve missed out on the special effects, the acting, the showmanship…
Many people will be like me, however, and remember reading the early Harry Potter books, unaware of the people around them or the rain tapping against their window, utterly lost in another world. They will want to know whether or not to pick up The Cursed Child because they remember how the original books could transport you to a place with a sense of drama and justice missing in our own, with adventures that could be both whimsical and serious.
It’s worth knowing upfront that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not a great story. The plot becomes unwieldy and ridiculous, even for one involving time travel. Some of the conflicts seem contrived. If you’re paying attention and remember the structure of the previous novels, you’ll have figured out a major plot twist by a third of the way through. There’s a warmth here, though, and a playful tone which never cheapens the struggles of its characters. There’s the excitement of adventuring with some very old friends who, though you haven’t seen them in a while, still know how to make you laugh. It’s fun without being trite.
I had never wanted to see Harry grown-up; he had moved on from his childhood adventures and so had I. But if I have one major criticism of the original book series, it’s regarding the sunshine-and-rainbows epilogue. There was a ring of falseness coming from the happily ever after, a brushing over of the struggles this world had gone through. The absurdly perfect ending was a cheapening of the sacrifices made by characters over the course of seven books. The Cursed Child is a deeply flawed story, but it’s one worth reading because it acknowledges that, no matter how brave you are, the world is not going to hand you a happily ever after. For there to be long-term contentment, your society is going to have to work for it or the ghosts of the past may reappear when you’re least expecting them.
Harry and company did not walk off into a perfect sunset after the books ended. The Cursed Child shows us that they struggled and made mistakes, and it’s far more interesting to ponder where they have ended up because of this.