I wasn’t necessarily planning to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—I mean, I like the Harry Potter universe and I’ve read all the books but, eh, a play written by someone other than J.K. Rowling, based on a story that she co-wrote with him and another guy? I don’t know; I wasn’t convinced I’d be into it. But then my boyfriend borrowed it from a friend, and then, after he finished it, it somehow ended up on the top of my pile of books to read. And while there are things I didn’t like about it, I’m totally glad I read it.

A thing you should know about this play is that it’s quite plot-heavy, and I’m not sure how much I can actually say about the plot without giving away too much. It’s set 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts and it focuses partly on one of Harry’s kids, Albus Severus, who’s about to start his first year at Hogwarts when the play opens. Albus ends up being friends with Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, and adventures ensue. Scorpius, for me, was the best thing about this play: he’s smart and charming and brave and kind and my only problem with his friendship with Albus is that it’s not more than a friendship. (Maybe I should just go re-read Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On?)

This was a really quick read and I was totally engrossed in it while reading, despite a few clunky/overwrought pieces of dialogue and some quibbles about characterization (Ron Weasley in particular, who felt much flatter than I think he should have, aside from a few choice moments in climactic scenes).

Reading Proof, I thought of Rebecca Goldstein’s Properties of Light, though I don’t remember enough about the latter to properly compare the two works. Both share a similar central triangle: brilliant/mad father (a physicist in Goldstein’s book, a mathematician in Auburn’s play), brilliant/possibly unhinged daughter, plus a (male) student of the father’s who is the daughter’s lover as well. It’s the love/desire part of Proof that I found most satisfying, rather than the mathematics (which there isn’t really that much of ) or the family drama (which, on the page anyhow, seemed shrill and obvious).

I like the lucidity of Carson’s prose, the framing essays around these plays, and the prefaces to each one: the sense of knowledge and ease and also a sly smile when she writes things like “The first eight hundred lines of the play will bore you, they’re supposed to.” The four plays: Herakles, Hekabe, Hippolytos, Alkestis: Herakles and his madness, Hekabe and her rage, Hippolytos and his prudishness, the riddle of Alkestis. Carson’s language is minimalist, never forced: “God found a way/to be surprising./That’s how this went.”