Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Fiction: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

It’s hardly news that The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown), J.K. Rowling’s first novel intended for adult readers, emerged last week at the top of the charts. And yet news it is. From The Guardian:
J.K. Rowling went easily to the top of the fiction charts on Tuesday with The Casual Vacancy notching up first week sales of 124,603.
To put that in context, the figure is ten times bigger than the number two book, Bernard Cornwell’s 1356, which sold 12,231, according to data supplied by Nielsen Book Scan, and more than 20 times bigger than the next new entry, Jackie CollinsThe Power Trip. It also makes Rowling’s book number 25 in the year to date’s fiction tables and number one in the year to date hardback fiction table.
The book, Rowling's first foray into adult fiction, is the fastest selling hardback novel since Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, which sold more than 550,000 in its first week of sale in 2009.
Despite stellar sales, Rowling’s first foray into fiction not-for-children is drawing criticism, not all of it good.

The Guardan’s Theo Tait observed that “The Casual Vacancy is no masterpiece, but it’s not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny.”

Deepti Hajela, writing for The Associated Press, was even more generous. “So look,” wrote Hajela, “here’s the thing: This. Is. Not. A. Children’s. Book. If you're looking for what made Harry Potter magical -- Wizards! Spells! Flying Broomsticks! -- you're not going to find it. If you're looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical -- emotion, heart -- you will ...”

The New York News’ Sherryl Connelly’s view was more dim. “The Casual Vacancy, which one bookseller breathlessly predicted would be the biggest novel of the year, isn’t dreadful. It’s just dull.”

Writing in The Daily Beast, Lucy Scholes calls The Casual Vacancy “a bleak and depressing portrait of contemporary rural British society, featuring graphic sex, violence, and drug use, and peppered with foul language,” making it obvious why a lot of readers expecting the magic and innocence Rowling delivered previously have come away from the book frothing mad.

Clearly, this novel of middle-class turpitude in a small British town is not going to be for everyone. But considering it’s come from the woman who has given us so much magic, it’s certainly worth a second look.



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