J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy": The Reviews Are In!
J.K. Rowling's first post-Harry Potter book has been placed on bookshelves and downloaded to e-readers across North America. Will the public accept The Casual Vacancy, her first book written for adults, for what it is? Or will they be too focused on what it is not? The reviews are in and well, people are having a hard time leaving Harry Potter behind.
I can't imagine how nervous Rowling must have been in the months and weeks leading up to the release of The Casual Vacancy. The Harry Potter series is so beloved around the world that it's hard for people to imagine her doing anything else. We loved the magical world that she created so much that we just want more, more, MORE. Many people, myself included, wondered if she'd ever write anything else. When she announced that she was releasing a new book that was not only not magical, but also not for children, I was both surprised and intrigued. Most of all, I thought that the decision to venture into very different territory was brave.
The New York Times, who did not like the book, said that The Casual Vacancy is "about as far from the enchanted world of Harry Potter as we can get." That's really the whole point. Rowling didn't need to write another book. The Harry Potter franchise was enormously successful. But Rowling is a writer. It's what she does and a large part of who she is. Writers need to write. I think many writers also like to challenge themselves. I imagine the possibility of writing something completely different must have been both alluring and terrifying. But would people allow her to leave Harry Potter in the past?
Not completely. Despite the fact that it was emphasized that this was a completely different kind of book and for a different audience, the comparisons inevitably exist. While Rowling might be ready to leave Hogwarts behind her, the rest of the world isn't quite there yet.
From TIME Entertainment:
It’s rare to see a writer whom you think you know well unfold a new dimension like this, a dimension that you didn’t even suspect existed. The Casual Vacancy is, in a funny way, not so much an extension of the Harry Potter books as their negative image: it’s a painfully arbitrary and fallen world, a world that, bereft as it is of the magic that animates and ennobles Hogwarts, sags and cracks under its own weight.
As a reader who is trying to decide whether or not she wants to read The Casual Vacancy, I find the comparisons frustrating. I know that this book is not Harry Potter and that it doesn't have magical elements. Sabrina shares my frustration in her tweets.
Media around #ACasualVacancy is driving me nuts. Statements like "The problem with Rowling’s new book is that it’s not Harry Potter." (cont)— Sabrina Medora (@vita_literature) September 27, 2012
and others. It's been stated from the very start that it WON'T be like Harry Potter. So why is everyone so surprised that its "different"?— Sabrina Medora (@vita_literature) September 27, 2012
If you're expecting a magic-filled, awkward teenage years, Hogwarts-esque sort of book then sure, be disappointed. But how silly to do so!— Sabrina Medora (@vita_literature) September 27, 2012
The Harry Potter connections may be constant, but they aren't all negative. Fox News is quick to point out that this is absolutely not a children's book but that the magic of J.K. Rowling -- emotion and heart -- is still present. People Magazine also likes this new, grittier side of Rowling.
Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight. And – though creating Harry Potter was more than enough – if Rowling wants to convince the world that she can cast other spells, she has succeeded.
As I mentioned above, I'm on the fence about reading The Casual Vacancy. It's not because I'm still mourning the Harry Potter series. I've let that go and I really am glad that she's trying something new. I just keep asking myself whether I'd read this book if J.K. Rowling hadn't written it. I'm not sure I would but I expect that I'll pick up The Casual Vacancy eventually. As for Rowling, I hope that she continues to try new things and that people keep reading.
Will you be reading The Casual Vacancy?