Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

So I recently listened to the book Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (aka JK Rowling) but somehow I ended up with the wrong book??

There are technically two books by this name. One is the original screenplay that Rowling wrote for the 2016 film, and the other is a textbook Harry Potter gets for school, which Rowling actually wrote and released to raise money for a charity in the UK.

Confused yet?

I was!

I thought I was going to be listening to the actual screenplay when I downloaded the ebook from my library’s digital catalogue because it did say original screenplay in the description, and the cover art matched that of the screenplay on goodreads.

Despite having almost identical titles, these ARE different books and I ended up listening to the former rather than the latter.

So the text book version of Fantastic Beasts is very interesting, although not quite what I was looking for. The audiobook is only two or three hours in length and I listened to it while driving one day, so I did end up finishing it. At first I thought it was just a cool introduction before the story started but once I was halfway through I decided to continue. It didn’t help that the textbook was read by Eddie Redmayne which made me believe even more that it would eventually evolve into the story told in the film. (He does have a very sonorous voice though).

Needless to say, I am ready for my first day of class for Magizoology!

Here is the official blurb for Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander’s classic compendium of magical creatures, has delighted generations of wizarding readers. With this beautiful, large-scale new edition illustrated in full color, Muggles too will have the chance to discover where the Runespoor lives, what the Puffskein eats, and why shiny objects should always be kept away from the Niffler.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief and J.K. Rowling’s international charity, Lumos, which will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, one can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.

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A very interesting read for any Potterhead who is desperate to learn more about the magical world of witchcraft and wizardry.

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xx

HP & the cursed child

Have you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Chances are – if you frequent book blogs – you have. I read it in two sittings and surprisingly, liked it very much! Surprising because it is a play and because most of my co-workers weren’t in love with it. I did not expect to rate it so highly.

Blurb: The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

cursed-child

As I said, I liked this one (far better than The Deathly Hallows to be honest). Albus grew on me as the story progressed. I saw him as the sullen, “unloved” teenager that we all have inside of us at some point. A phrase kept popping into my head as I read, that children who need our love the most show it in the most unloving ways. This was definitely true of Harry and Albus, who had great difficulty communicating and relating to each other.

One of the other things that I really liked is that The Cursed Child mirrored HP so perfectly without retelling the same story (ahem Star Wars). Revisiting the Tri-Wizard Tournament was fun without becoming repetitive and the most basic motivation of main character Albus was his love for best friend Scorpius (son of Draco Malfoy!) which has echoes of the relationships between Harry, Ron and Hermione.

The similarities between Albus and a young Harry are all the more striking because they are so different from one another. Albus is a Slytherin, has only one close friend and isn’t popular at all. Even his cousins and siblings aren’t close to him. But Harry, for all his popularity, was only close to Hermione and the Weasleys and both boys felt the pressure of being a spectacle to the masses. Each is uncomfortable in his own skin and wonders at the purity in his own heart.

The fact that The Cursed Child was written as a play didn’t take away from my experience. I was fine with that medium and my imagination completely filled in the gaps. Plays generally  have less writing per page than a regular book, so I breezed through the pages very quickly. This helped to create the illusion that the plot was super fast paced and made me feel accomplished. Everyone likes that feeling.

Not to delve too deeply into spoilers, but we do experience an alternate universe in which Voldemort is the ruler of the magical world and Harry Potter is dead. This period was described as hell on earth, but it was great fun to read about and I wish that it had lasted longer, or that we had even gotten to see Voldemort on-page, in this space. For all the talk of Voldemort returning, and the implied threat of evil creeping back into the world, we never really get to see it.

There is also an alternate reality where Ron and Hermione do not end up together. Instead, Ron is married to Padma (unhappily!) and Hermione is a bitter, mean Professor at Hogwarts instead of Minister for Magic. I did not like this reality at all. Ron and Hermione were both caricatures of themselves and this cheapened them a little. I also detest the implication that Hermione essentially turns into a harpy because she didn’t have Ron to love her.

There was one scene which I loved and have been waiting to read for more than a decade. It is between Harry and Dumbledore (through a portrait of the deceased Headmaster). And it reads a little something like this:

Dumbledore: I am no fit person to love … I have never loved without causing harm.

A Beat

Harry: You would have hurt me less if you had told me this then.

Dumbledore (openly weeping now): I was blind. That is what love does. I couldn’t see that you needed to hear that this closed-up, tricky, dangerous old man … loved you.

A pause. The two men are overcome with emotion.

Harry: It isn’t true that I never complained.

Dumbledore:  Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.

Those that we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch. Paint … and memory … and love.

Overall, I enjoyed the Cursed Child and would love to see it made into a movie at some point. I would certainly read another book. The final drawback is my impression that the book overall was a little too young and the events too easy for someone my age. The play feels like it was written for youth today, instead of adults like me who grew up with Harry Potter. And while this would be fine, the main audience reading a play are adults, not young children or even teenagers. The events are tied up a little too neatly at the end. Although one character dies, his death brings little gravity to the story and is almost meaningless, because it fails even to bring Albus to an understanding of what his father grew up with, as The Boy Who Lived.

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xx