It wasn’t the same.
I mean, it wasn’t the same as reading all the other “Harry Potter” books for many reasons. It’s been many, many years since I had a new Harry Potter book. I’ve never read an HP book on kindle before. The play format was very different and positively jarring. The fact that it wasn’t only JK’s voice was noticeable.
For those of my generation, Harry Potter was not really a series of books. Harry Potter was an experience. Staying up all night reading the fifth and seventh books is something I have very distinct memories of. The moments particular characters died are emblazoned on my memory. My grief, my joy, my excitement–those are all bound up in my memories of Harry Potter.
That experience can have no sequel. After the last movie came out, it was over. Pottermore touched that experience, the Ilvermorny business very nearly skews that experience–but nothing can actually join that experience. It is in the past. It is over.
And when the books and movies ended, the truth is that they took seed in the mind of the fans. That was it, it was over–and we were free to imagine what we would for the future. Fanfiction became the only fiction.
Maybe, if JK had written another novel, instead of a play and a movie, it would have been different. But as it is, it feels like she is writing fanfiction about her own universe now. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” feels no more real to me than the mad fanfictions that fill the internet, than the occasional fun little parody movies that pop up on youtube. This might be because, while JK spent the best part of a decade plotting the books, she only spent the last few years working on this play. It might be because I’m so disappointing with how bad a job she’s been doing at inserting her Wizarding history into American history.
This book didn’t feel like an attempt to recapture the experience of Harry Potter. What it felt like was an experiment with, and a reflection on, the world JK built (which, again, is a very fanfiction-ey thing to do). She gets to challenge the characters she created in new ways. She gets to reflect on the long-term effects of what she put those characters through, of what relationships developed over the course of her seven novels. She gets to reframe things, to show how different people interpreted the events of her books. And she gets to address some of the major criticisms of her books, like the fact that everyone in Slytherin was on a scale from slimy to super-evil, or that the time-turners could have been used to save like everyone.
Looked at from the perspective of an experiment, a sort of writing exercise, I found the whole thing immensely enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like the books, it doesn’t feel closely connected enough to the experience of Harry Potter be a real sequel–but that’s all right. Because it’s really just a lot of fun.