Thoughts: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

If you’re a Harry Potter fan then, by all means, read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I really enjoyed it, couldn’t put it down!  However, you have to remember that you are reading the script of a play. This is not a Harry Potter book, and if that’s what you are expecting you might be disappointed. We Harry Potter fans are accustomed to the specific type of storytelling and writing that we experienced throughout the Harry Potter series.
J. K. Rowling was always very detailed in the way she wrote about the wizarding world, the main characters, and even the minor characters. Don’t expect that level of detail with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because, I repeat, it is not a Harry Potter book, it’s the script of a play.

*** Spoilers***

HP and the Cursed child focuses on Albus, Harry’s younger son, and Scorpius, Draco’s only son (and only child). Albus and Scorpius are able to be friends because Albus is, in some ways, a lot like Harry, but Scorpius is almost nothing like Draco. Harry’s son and Draco’s son becoming best friends? I did not see that coming. But it does make sense.
Both boys have the heavy past of their famous fathers weighing on them, they know that everyone is watching them, they feel the pressure of expectations, and they each feel like they have disappointed their father. In other words, Albus and Scorpius have a lot in common, they understand each other. For various reasons they become outcasts at Hogwarts so all they have is one another. They need each other. Friendship was one of the main themes in all of the HP books so it was nice to see that emphasized again in this new story.

Another main theme of this new story is that changing even the smallest detail of the past can have disastrous consequences. Albus sets out on a mission to change a major event in Harry’s past- the death of Cedric Diggory. Albus overhears a conversation about the existence of a time turner that can take witches and wizards not only hours back in time, like Hermione did, but years back in time. Albus drags the reluctant Scorpius along for the ride.

A powerful time turner? Overhearing conversations? Friends and adventure?
Oh, so this is a Harry Potter story! Yes. While this may not be Harry Potter storytelling as we know it, HP and the Cursed Child does have some quintessential HP elements. That was really cool to get to experience again. There are surprises and magic; wands and spells, magical artifacts, and- in this story- a bewitched man-eating library! (Hermione, obviously.) As I read the script I kept wondering How in the world can they pull this off in a play on stage? We’re talking some serious theatre technology.

So, as I was saying, Albus sets out to go back in time and prevent Cedric’s death, but each time Albus and Scorpius make even the smallest change to the past they end up in a drastically changed future, a future that is far worse than the life they were already living. This was, for me, the most brilliant part of the play/story. Several key, and perhaps favorite, Harry potter moments from the original books are revisited. Then, in addition to that treat, we are treated to glimpses of alternate future realities.
What would the wizarding world have become if Harry had not survived and defeated Voldemort? What if Cedric Diggory had lived, but had been humiliatingly defeated in the Triwizard tournament? What if Ron hadn’t got jealous when Hermione went to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum? These are just a few examples of how events, big and small, can largely impact individuals and the future.

Another treat in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that we get some more time with our old friends- Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Moaning Myrtle, even Draco. The invisibility cloak makes an appearance too, as well as Pepper Imps and Chocolate Frogs- Albus’s favorite. The reader gets to know Albus and Scorpius really well, but not the other Weasley or Potter children, which was disappointing. Rose, Ron and Hermione’s daughter, plays a small part. We get the gist of her personality- ambitious and somewhat intense, just like her mother. (Which I really liked.) Ron and Hermione’s son Hugo is hardly even mentioned. Harry and Ginny’s son, James, and daughter, Lily, make brief appearances, but that’s it.
This is where the play differs from the books the most. If this were a HP book, Rose, Hugo, James, and Lily would have played much more significant roles; they would have been fleshed out, well developed, and, I’m sure, lovable characters. We also would have seen Neville and Luna, and more of Hagrid.

As I mentioned above, Albus and Scorpius experience several different alternate realities or possible futures. And that’s what I felt like the play was- one possible continuation of the Harry Potter story, but it doesn’t feel real and solid the way the original series did. This is obviously because it wasn’t a Harry Potter book- you can’t do in a play what you can do in a novel. It just isn’t the same, and it isn’t meant to be. But If J.K. Rowling were to take the story in this play and turn it into a full-blown Harry Potter book then maybe it would feel like the true continuation of the Harry Potter (or wizarding world) story.

With that said, I should clarify again that I did really like the story- plenty of adventure, suspense, mystery, and magic. The best part for me was getting to be around magic again, and catching up with Harry and Hermione. I also liked that Professor McGonagall had such a big part in the play, she was always one of my favorites. I wouldn’t change much about the story itself, I just want it in book form so more detail can be included! However, there are two things I might change. First, Ron.
Ron’s character in the play is more like the Ron of the first few novels- blundering and awkward and not exactly the equal of those around him. He didn’t have much of a role in the play. He makes several appearances but he seems to be there more for comic relief. I was disappointed in this the most. (It was worse than Harry’s son being sorted into Slytherin house!) By the end of the final Harry Potter book Ron had experienced a lot of growth. He was more skilled and showed a lot more courage and bravery than what he did in the first books, but in the play all of this is taken away and he seems to be right back where he started. I didn’t like that. I don’t think he needs to regress quite that much, he deserves better.
The other thing I would change is Albus being sorted into Slytherin house. I just don’t think it fits. I realize that a good story needs to have conflict, but I think that was satisfied with Harry’s and Draco’s sons becoming best friends and being Hogwarts outcasts. The only way I wouldn’t change Albus Potter being sorted into Slytherin is if a really good philosophic or prophetic reason could be given to explain how or why he’s in Slytherin house. Any house but Slytherin! And with there being such a focus on Cedric Diggory I think it would fit the story really well if Albus and Scorpius were to be sorted into his house- Hufflepuff.
Hufflepuff House of Hogwarts: The Adventures of Albus and Scorpius. You see! Now that’s the beginning of a great story!

 

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Review: An Old-Fashioned Girl, final thoughts

So much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

I haven’t had time for blogging this past week. It’s very difficult to blog when you have kids at home all day. However, several weeks ago I did a 2nd, more in depth review of An Old-Fashioned Girl. It’s practically an essay! Only god knows why I do this, why I write so much… Why in the world would I write an essay that no one is going to read?! Why?!
But it’s a good thing I did, I guess, because I don’t have anything else to post nor time to come up with anything else.
So, here you go- my 2nd review of An Old-Fashioned Girl, written several weeks ago.

As I was saying…

So much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

I did a review of An Old-Fashioned Girl on June 30th, but in that one I focused more on a character comparison and analysis of Polly and Fanny, especially Polly.
In this review I will still have a few more things to say about Polly, but I will focus more on the novel itself and its themes.

I thought this story was going to be nothing more than Poor Girl and Rich Girl find that they can learn from each other. But it’s so much more than that. I was really surprised by how long this story was! It isn’t the longest book, in terms of pages, that I’ve ever read, but I think it seemed longer because it moves kind of slowly. It isn’t boring though, at least not to a reader like me who really enjoys 19th century novels.
The characters are entertaining and very distinct from one another, and a lot happens in the novel, but most of the events are minor and unfold slowly. There was, however, one plot twist at the end that I did not see coming. (Excellent!)
Another thing to note about this novel is that it is told in two parts. Part two begins 6 years after the end of part one, but in a way they seem like two totally separate books.

If you’ve read Little Women it’s hard not to make comparisons between it and An Old-Fashioned Girl. The length, scope, and pace of each story is very similar. The setting and characters and their interactions are also similar. Both books deal with regular day-to-day life events, as well as common milestones. Both stories are very tame, mild, and wholesome, and have several very clear opinions, themes, and moral lessons which are presented throughout the story . . .

The rich unfairly judge and snub the poor, love is more powerful than poverty, poverty can be a great teacher, self-improvement leads to a good life, hard work and purpose are essential for a good life, what you do is more important than what you wear, little girls shouldn’t grow up too quickly, one should strive to be as selfless as possible, doing for others is one of the keys to happiness, women should help lift each other up, the bond between women is very important and empowering . . . etc., etc., (I’ve also noticed that death and grief seem to be recurring themes in LMA’s stories.)
The brilliant part, and why LMA’s work is widely considered to be so enduring, is that these things are still very relevant today- as anyone who reviews either book will point out.

After reading An Old-Fashioned Girl I think that the theme and belief most important to Louisa was “work and purpose.” Time and time again this is directly stated throughout the novel, either by the narrator or the novel’s extra-perfect “little Polly.” I know this won’t go over well with some readers, but sometimes Polly was so perfect that it was down right annoying. She was like Mary freakin’ Poppins! “Practically Perfect In Every Way.”

However, Polly was likable, and even occasionally relatable- she has hopes and dreams, she cries and doubts. As I stated in my first review, Polly was an interesting character, but  not an entirely realistic one. She represents the ideals that LMA holds so dear, she is the story’s protagonist and catalyst.
Much more realistic are the members of the Shaw family, especially Mr. Shaw, Tom, and Fanny, who are so very flawed that they all eventually find themselves very unhappy, but they each achieve great personal growth and happiness by novel’s end. Personal growth and self-improvement are also major themes in Little Women.  Based on what I’ve read by LMA fans these themes are in almost all of her work.

Now, back to “work and purpose.” In the story, Polly, who is poor, is often much happier than her best friend, Fanny.  Despite the money, conveniences, and luxuries she has, Fanny is often dissatisfied with her life. Polly encourages her to try and find something to do. She tries to persuade Fanny that if she had a purpose she would be happier. As the story moves on, Fanny comes to believe this more and more, and to her relief and satisfaction it eventually happens.

” . . . feeling that at last necessity had given her what she had long needed, something to do.”

“I shall groan and moan by and by, I dare say, but . . . I’m half glad it’s happened, for it takes me out of myself, and gives me something to do.”

Through An Old-Fashioned girl, Louisa May Alcott adamantly declares that people without something substantial and meaningful to do will not be happy. Idleness leads to “listlessness,” meanness, and possibly a depressed-like state. Work and purpose make for a good life, they keep a person happy and healthy.

“. . . Polly came to know a little sisterhood of busy, happy, independent, girls, who each had a purpose to execute, a talent to develop, an ambition to achieve, and brought to the work patience and perseverance, hope and courage. . . . All these helped Polly . . . for purpose and principle are the best teachers we can have, and the want of them makes half the women in America what they are, restless, aimless, frivolous, and sick.”

I agree wholeheartedly! I know from personal experience how true this is.
But you need love too, especially in childhood. True, LMA included the theme of love in this story- Polly’s family is very loving- but LMA did not directly state or emphasize the importance of love and affection to the degree that she did work and purpose.

I say that if love and affection are in place then, yes, bring on the work and purpose! These are absolutely necessary for human beings to be happy and healthy. This is true age-old wisdom going back thousands of years.

I have to say it again, so much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

The following are some of my favorite quotes from An Old-Fashioned Girl:

” . . . she received, from an unexpected source, some of the real help which teaches young people how to bear these small crosses, by showing them the heavier ones they have escaped . . .”

 

” . . . that indescribable something which women are quick to see and feel in men who have been blessed with wise and good mothers.”

 

” . . . hearts are so “contrary” that they won’t be obedient to reason, will, or even gratitude.”

 

” . . . soon she had other sorrows beside her own to comfort, and such work does a body more good than floods of regretful tears, or hours of sentimental lamentations.”

 

“I can’t sell myself for an establishment.”

 

” . . . so she put her love away in a corner of her heart, and tried to forget it, hoping it would either die, or have a right to live.”

 

“Blessings, like curses, come home to roost.”

 

” He exaggerated his faults and follies into sins of the deepest dye.”

“He was either pathetically humble or tragically cross.”

 

“Why are bad boys like cake?”
“Because a good beating makes them better.”

 

“Everybody fell to eating cake, as if indigestion was one of the lost arts.”

 

“The gentlest girls when roused are more impressive than any shrew; for even turtle doves gallantly peck to defend their nests.”

 

“Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appears…”

 

” . . . love and labor, two beautiful old fashions that began long ago, with the first pair in Eden.”

 

“I’ve had so many plans in my head lately, that sometimes it seems as if it would split . . .”

. . . which is exactly how I’ve been feeling about this blog.

 

Book Talk and Thoughts: Miss Peregrine’s book and movie

So a few posts ago I mentioned that I would be reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And I did. I finished it several days ago actually. The problem is I don’t have much to say about it, but I’ll give you what little I’ve got. I feel that calling this a “review” would be a bit of a stretch, not only because I don’t have much to say about the book, but also because I’m going to talk about the upcoming movie.

It’s nearly impossible for me to talk about the Miss Peregrine novel without comparing it to the upcoming movie (September.)  I’m really looking forward to seeing it, or, as my inner valley girl would put it- “I mean, I’m like, SUPER excited to see that movie! Oh my god I can’t wait!”  I’m absolutely certain I’m going to like the movie more than the book. The trailers for that movie are amazing and they’re 99% of the reason I decided to read the book. Based solely on the 2 minute trailers available, I can see that the book and movie are going to differ in some major ways. In fact, I wonder if these major differences will disappoint or annoy the fans of the novel.

So . . . Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As I previously explained, I think it was about this time last year, or maybe during autumn and winter of last year, I kept seeing this book at my local grocery store. Copies and copies and copies of this book with the strange and creepy (yet alluring) cover would stare at me every time I walked by the book/magazine/greeting card section of the store; beckoning to me- read me, read me , read me. I can’t deny I was drawn to it. Not only does the cover of the book draw you in, the title does too. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children— that is a great title.

Despite its obvious success and mainstream popularity, despite its unique and alluring cover, I opted at that time not to read it. I can’t tell you how many times I picked up a copy and read the story description and plot synopsis. But I came to the same conclusion each time- too scary. I can’t do scary. No scary movies, no scary books. I didn’t want to read it because I was concerned it would keep me up at night.

MissPPeculiarChildren

Turns out I was right. This book is scary. Those strange old photos in the book are very creepy and eerie and, yes, it kept me up at night. However, I am a bit sensitive when it comes to that stuff. I’m easily scared. My mother-in-law mentioned that it kept her up at night as well, but she really liked it- said she couldn’t put it down. That wasn’t my experience at first but, yes, towards the end of the book I couldn’t put it down. As quoted from the review in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Brace yourself for the last 70 pages . . . “
I definitely agree with that.
Apparently CNN said “Readers searching for the next Harry Potter may want to visit Miss Peregrine’s . . .”  It’s also been compared to X-MEN. (Entertainment Weekly) As for the Harry Potter comment, for me that would be a No. I don’t think so. This is not the next Harry Potter. Reading Harry Potter, especially the early years, is fun!
Miss Peregrine’s is . . . not so much fun as it is creepy and scary. Thrilling and suspenseful too! (To be fair.) But not exactly fun nor uplifting the way Harry Potter was (is) for me. As for the X-MEN comparison, yes, I agree. X-MEN definitely came to mind when I was reading this.

The movie previews made me think I had misjudged the book, but I don’t think I did. The previews of the movie present a quirky, colorful, fantasy-adventure, but I found the book to very dark, which is what I suspected in the first place. I like what McClatchy Wire Service said, “Got a tweener child with a taste for creepy horror and time-travel stories? Send them Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

“Creepy horror.” Exactly. Oh, and time travel.
This is such a crap “review” I’m doing here that I haven’t even mentioned the time-travel aspect of the book, which is a major part of the story/plot so how could I not have mentioned it?! I don’t know. I just don’t know. I have no satisfactory explanation. All I can say is that the whole time-travel part of the plot didn’t leave a big impression on me. I was too distracted by the “creepy horror.”

I will say this- the fact that the book contains old photos makes it very unique. That was a very creative idea. The photos definitely create a different kind of reading experience. The plot is smart and very well organized, which is very cool and impressive considering there is time-travel involved. The depiction of the Welsh island where the story takes place is very well done. The characters are good, especially Miss Peregrine herself, but I don’t think I’ll remember the personalities of the other characters as much as I will their “peculiar” abilities- levitation, fire, invisibility, etc.
All in all, I thought the book was ok. Most, if not all, of the reviews rave about this book, but I’m not raving. Just not my cup of tea, I guess. I like how the book ended- it had a well written ending, but I don’t feel the urge to read the next one in the series. With all of the books on my to-read list I doubt I will read the other books in this series.
I’ll just go see the movies.

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