Bourke’s Bookshelf: ‘To the Muggles who got me here’
This week's Nonfiction November read is the 2022 memoir "Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard" by Tom Felton.
Nonfiction November continues with a magical new release that I couldn’t possibly not read.
Anyone familiar with the Harry Potter franchise knows Tom Felton as the sneering kid with slick-backed blond hair who played Draco Malfoy in the films. Bringing to life one of film’s most likable bad boys (at least in my opinion), Felton was just 12 years old when he started filming “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and began donning his green and silver Slytherin robes. As the films went on, he would quickly become a teenage heart-throb, as fans watched him grow up on screen with the other child actors and claim a fame he had no idea was possible.
‘Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard’ by Tom Felton
Harry Potter fans will appreciate the foreward to this book, written by Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the series. As the years go on, and more and more backstage stories from the films emerge, the one of little Emma Watson having a huge crush on teenage Tom Felton is commonly told. Photos of the two together as they grew up fueled long-held desires among fans for the two to be linked romantically. While that isn’t necessarily the case, Tom and Emma remain incredibly close friends, so Emma’s heartfelt introduction is absolutely beautiful.
Then we get into Tom’s story, starting out in a small town in Surrey, the youngest of four brothers. Tom writes a lot about his three older brothers, attributing who he came to be through their influence growing up.
He details how a couple chance television commercials turned into a much larger film role, when he took on the role of Peagreen Clock on “The Borrowers” as a young kid in 1997. Shortly thereafter, he found himself auditioning for the cast of a movie based on a book about some little wizard boy. Going into the auditions completely blind and with no knowledge of the Harry Potter books like the other child actors had, Tom didn’t have his heart set on landing a role. But after accepting the part of Draco Malfoy, his life changed in ways he never would have imagined.
Outside of filming a movie that would go on to make more than $1 billion, alongside some of the biggest names in the British acting world, Tom tried to be a normal kid. He went to a regular school with non-actor kids, and he spent as much of his free time as he could fishing with his older brother.
While I loved getting to see a glimpse of the man behind the Malfoy sneer, the most exciting part of the book for me — as I’m sure for many Harry Potter fans — was learning about what went on behind the scenes of some of my favorite films and exactly what the actors were like in real life.
Robbie Coltrane? As big and loveable as Rubeus Hagrid himself.
Alan Rickman? A quiet authority with a compassionate side.
Ralph Fiennes? An intense presence, perfect for the role of Lord Voldemort.
I won’t give it all away, but the personalities of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Helen McCrory and James and Oliver Phelps figure into the story, along with both men who played Albus Dumbledore and those who portrayed Malfoy’s cronies, Crabbe and Goyle.
Unsurprisingly, the Harry Potter series is a major focal point of Tom’s memoir, but his story extends beyond the franchise that gave him international fame, too. The immense stardom didn’t preclude him from personal struggles in life. A family history of mental illness and an unfamiliar lifestyle quickly thrust upon him propelled Tom down a dangerous path.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’ll admit that reading Tom Felton’s life account made me feel like I was making a friend, and like celebrities might not actually be all that different from the rest of us.
Whether that’s the case or not, I give this memoir five stars and deem it a magical read for any Harry Potter superfan such as myself.