JK Rowling ‘The Casual Vacancy’: Book Review Roundup

The new book by ‘The Harry Potter’ author is not for the fans of the boy wizard, critics say.

A new novel for adults by J.K. Rowling is announced, entitled The Casual Vacancy. Photo: Pottermcfly/Flickr

The first J.K. Rowling’s book for adults is absolutely not for children as it contains scenes of racism, self-harm, domestic violence and child abuse.

“The Casual Vacancy” contains regular combinations of four-letter words and such phrases as “that miraculously unguarded vagina” – which has already caused a wave of jokes on social networks about Harry Potter and the Miraculously Unguarded Vagina.

However, Rowling’s new book still remains a generally well-written one whose central theme is “responsibility for those less fortunate, all the time imbued with ever-present British themes of class and notions of propriety,” writes The Huffington Post.

“The Casual Vacancy” shows a ‘snobbish’ middle class community at war over a local election in a West Country village. The Harry Potter author said: “It’s been billed as a black comedy, but to me it’s more of a comic tragedy.”

The new book has already received mixed reviews: positive as well as those negative. “No doubt there will be reviewers who have already decided to pour vitriol upon [The Casual Vacancy] no matter its merits,” said Jonathan Ruppin, of Foyles.

Michiko Kakutani, reviewing The Casual Vacancy for the New York Times, was obviously unimpressed. “It’s as though writing about the real world inhibited Ms Rowling’s miraculously inventive imagination, and in depriving her of the tension between the mundane and the marvelous constrained her ability to create a two-, never mind three-dimensional tale,” the critic wrote.

Jan Moir of The Daily Mail spoke of Rowling’s attack on the middle classes. “More than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat,” found Moir.

Moir went on, adding that the author “the kind of blinkered, left-leaning demagogue quick to lambast what she perceives to be risible middle-class values, while failing to see that her own lush thickets of dearly held emotions and prejudices are riddled with the same narrow-mindedness she is so quick to detect in others”.

Still, The Scotsman doesn’t share the opinion of Jan Moir: “It is far grittier, bleaker (and, occasionally, funnier) than I had expected, and – the acid test – I suspect it would do well even if its author’s name weren’t JK Rowling.”

The Express joined those who found the book well-written and composed. The paper suggested that “some readers will be shocked at Rowling’s departure from wizardry and magic but The Casual Vacancy is a highly readable morality tale for our times.”

Meanwhile, The Evening Standard tried to compare Harry Potter with Rowling’s new book for adults: “What the book has in common with Harry Potter is the ability to marshall an extraordinary number of characters into a coherent narrative.”

“A prose style so clunkily over-descriptive and repetitiously structured that it presents quite a barrier to the reader with any interest in language, until you are able to forget it, like reading a ropey translation, and concentrate on the story instead”.

Allison Pearson of The Telegraph awarded three stars and found the novel “sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed, and full of cruelty and despair”, and “as for the ending, dear God, it is so howlingly bleak that it makes Thomas Hardy look like PG Wodehouse”.

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