J.K. Rowling's latest tackles heavy, often somber material, according to critics. (Photo : Amazon)
Expectation is a burden that even the most talented writers must face.
As the first wave of reviews for J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy trickle in, it appears that critics' nostalgia for the surreal has been upended by crude, often explicit subject matters that defy the acclaimed author's portfolio. Vacancy takes place in the West Country village of Pagford where the bubbling tension between neighbors is brought to the fore after the death of a man named Barry Fairbrother, and is Rowling's first Adult novel. Latinos Post has collected highlights from some of the most respected review sources, found below.
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"The Casual Vacancy is a solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel. Set in the "pretty little town of Pagford", it is a study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. The only obvious parallel with the Potter books is that, like them, it is animated by a strong dislike of mean, unsympathetic, small-minded folk."
"The book has a righteous social message, about responsibility for others, and a great big plot that runs like clockwork; like the Potter novels, it is efficiently organised beneath its busy surface."
"On the other hand, the novel is very much the prisoner of its conventions. Rowling's underclass characters are not bad, considering they were put together by the richest novelist in history, but it's a pity that they all use a kind of generalised, Dickensian lower-order-speak, that belongs more to literary custom than anything anyone ever says: "I takes Robbie to the nurs'ry"; "Tha's norra fuckin' crime"; "No, shurrup, righ'?". The plot is often predictable; it requires a large helping of artificial contrivance; and it lurches into melodrama in the final act. The rules probably require this, and it all rattles along nicely enough, but it leaves a slight sense of disappointment."
"So great and joyous were Rowling's powers of enchantment that she summoned a whole generation - a generation that had been in danger of being lost to the written word - to the magic circle of books. We are eternally in her debt. No wonder The Casual Vacancy has been as keenly anticipated as Christmas: more than a million pre-orders have been placed, and inevitably some of those customers will be very young. So why has Rowling decided to break the spell, bewildering fans with this uneven, often harrowing book?"
"The book is at its weakest when it is most angrily political, satirising what JK's friend, Gordon Brown, calls "bigots". And the novel pretty much explodes towards the end, losing shape in its fury at the dirty, unfair England that we Muggles have made for ourselves"
"In 503 pages Rowling touches on a litany of modern woes. Bullying? Check. Cutting? Check. Debilitating anxiety? Yep. Racism, rape, heroin addiction, disappointment, death - they're all here, tied up in a densely populated, intricately plotted tale of small-town intrigue."
"Despite tough topics and maybe 50 extra pages, Rowling has produced a vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff; those 400-plus million copies sold of Harry Potter books were no coincidence."
"Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that "The Casual Vacancy" is not only disappointing - it's dull."
"Instead of an appreciation for the courage, perseverance, loyalty and sense of duty that people are capable of, we are left with a dismaying sense of human weakness, selfishness and gossipy stupidity. Instead of an exhilarating sense of the mythic possibilities of storytelling, we are left with a numbing understanding of the difficulty of turning a dozen or so people's tales into a story with genuine emotional resonance."
"We do not come away feeling that we know the back stories of the "Vacancy" characters in intimate detail the way we did with Harry and his friends and enemies, nor do we finish the novel with a visceral knowledge of how their pasts - and their families' pasts - have informed their present lives."