Little, Brown: Title, Pub Date, Synopsis of New JKR Novel

by John on April 12, 2012

Read all about The Casual Vacancy here — hat tip, RevGeorge!

Little, Brown Book Group announces that the new novel for adults by J.K. Rowling is entitled The Casual Vacancy.  The book will be published worldwide in the English language in hardback, ebook, unabridged audio download and on CD on Thursday 27th September 2012.

The Casual Vacancy

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

Checking in at 20 pounds sterling or closer to $40 than $30, it certainly is a book for adults with spare change and for libraries. Let the speculation about the political fairy tale she promised or the point of this announced story begin!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric April 12, 2012 at 10:25 am

I wonder how much we should make of the fact that the first book began with a boy named Harry who lived, and this one begins with a man named Barry who dies?

John April 12, 2012 at 11:29 am

Perhaps the first note in the political transparency is that “if Barry dies (Barack is not re-elected), all the fault lines in western society will be exposed in convulsion”? The timing of this publication date just before the Presidential elections along with Ms. Rowling’s leftist leanings (and previous political pronouncements and donations) invite this kind of speculation, alas.

Before we go there, though, how about a few notes on the meaning of “adult novel”?

I’d assume that it means at least four things akin to an ‘R’ rating in films, that is, ‘what keeps the movie from earning the coveted G-is-for-Disney rating.’

(1) Rough language: we saw hints of this in the Hogwarts Saga and I expect a heavy dose of realism in the language of this novel. F-bombs galore? Probably. Something like dung bombs with Fred and George, one or two won’t be enough.

(2) ‘Bedroom time’ won’t be about going to sleep. Expect either scenes of physical intimacy or revelations of infidelity and hypocrisy. Something shocking or disturbing for children but somehow challenging and important for adults (sic)… Remember two of Ms. Rowling’s three favorite writers are Nabokov and Collette, role models for some prurient writing.

(3) The Unhappy Ending: it may be a ring composition or alchemical drama but the flavor of the finale, I fear, will be more like King Lear than Much Ado About Nothing. I’m guessing dissolution and despair, an existential ennui with a few comic reversals.

(4) The Literary novel: Call it the ‘Equus Moment.’ Just as Daniel Radcliffe had to take a daring adult part to earn his acting street cred (and distance himself from childish things), I expect Ms. Rowling’s first novel post Harry will be more like Pynchon and Proust than E. Nesbit or Elizabeth Goudge. Heavy on introspection and elevated language — she’s had five years to raise her game in this regard.

I expect, too, that it will be wickedly funny and acidly critical of cartoon targets like politicians, teachers, reporters, and, an addition to her repertoire, clerics and Church Ladies. No doubt with back stories for each to show them in a more sympathetic light? Let’s hope she is that generous now that she is unleashed from her previous audience and genre restraints.

We’ll see. I expect you’ll be with me in the local bookstore at midnight to pick up your copy? Or will you be downloading your half-priced EBook at home?

Fun moment to expect: her juvenile delinquents making a disparaging Harry Potter reference or an adult criticizing the books or a churchmen reading same. It has be to be in there somewhere.

Your thoughts on the adult category? Thanks in advance for sharing them.

John April 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

Henri, The Existential Cat: A Preview of A Casual Vacancy? Sartre for the Great Unwashed?

The original Henri (2006) can be viewed here.

Bruce Charlton April 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I am trying not to dread that it will turn-out to be something like the egregious Twin Peaks TV series – a inverted-moral tale, a revelation of the seething evil behind the hypocrisy of supposedly ‘good’ people (yawn…) and how the world is saved by an outcast rebel etc.

I just fear she will be playing to her weakness with this one (i.e. her political correctness – or what you term teh ‘postmodern’ top-dressing of the HP saga) rather than to her strength.

John April 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

And, as if it weren’t a big enough JKR News Day, we also have the release of the Hogwarts Saga on the Barnes & Noble Nook platform, again through PotterMore.com.

Rochelle April 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm

27th September is my birthday! Thursday is a strange day of the week to publish a book. It must be in my honor. Of course.

As far as the book goes, I suppose I’m interested enough. Eric you make an interesting point about a Harry who lives and a Barry who dies. I don’t think I expect this to be nearly as good as the series that spent more than 15 years in the making, but I have a hard time believing it will be a flop.

Eeyore April 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

The first thing I thought of was a movie with Maggie Smith that came out a few years ago – “Keeping Mum”. Black comedy, indeed. Adult themes, yes, and language, yes. But none of it really bothered me because it was so funny and at times, so poignant. That’s my hope for this book.

There are a lot of “adult” novels that I don’t read because of the details of the character’s private lives, which in my opinion, should remain private. So I hope there isn’t too much of that.

But I like her sense of humor and her political leanings, I must say. I think, John, that you are really going out on a limb with the choice of the name. Perhaps it’s more of a nod to Harry and the fact that she is leaving Harry behind, and nothing more than that. Having the names rhyme accomplishes the connection without using the same name.

I don’t quite understand the whole B&N Nook release of HP. I bought mine for my Nook the first day they were available on Pottermore. Is this something different? In fact, it was through B&N that I found out the eBooks were available.

Pat

revgeorge April 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Half priced eBook? Yeah, right. You haven’t followed the pricing wars very closely, John. :)

The Kindle edition will be $19.99 & the hardcover $21.00. Which at first glance doesn’t seem too off. It’s just the price on the hardcover will come down even more fairly quickly while the eBook price stays the same for the longest time. Although since Hachette is one of the publishers being sued for price fixing in regards to eBooks, maybe that will change.

Rochelle April 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Those prices are via Amazon. It looks like anywhere else it will be $35, if the savings off the list price on Amazon is correct.

revgeorge April 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm

The prices on Barnes & Noble are the same as Amazon’s, which is actually a bit unusual. The eBook price has to be the same because Hachette sets it under Agency Pricing but usually Amazon will more deeply discount the hardcover or paperback versions than Barnes & Noble will.

Either way I’m not going to be buying the book right off. I’ll wait for a lot of reviews.

John April 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

RevGeorge, I was quoting the UK prices:

The Casual Vacancy
480 pages (approximately)
ISBN 9781408704202 (hardback) price £20.00
ISBN 9781405519229 (ebook) price £11.99
ISBN 9781405519212 (audio download) £20.00
ISBN 9781405519205 (CD) price £30.00

revgeorge April 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Sure, confuse me with all these different numbers and currencies. You should know I don’t like math. ;)

Jenna St. Hilaire April 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm

As per Rochelle, it’s hard to imagine this one being a flop, just because of the numbers of Potter fans who will give it a try. The next book, however, may sail or sink on its own merits.

A tie-in to President Obama seems like a bit of a stretch; even hard leftists can’t stand him half the time. Of course, Ms. Rowling, being across the pond, may not share all the shades of American partisan sentiment. The synopsis does suggest a certain amount of political potential and possible mockery-in-the-making, however. If that turns out to be accurate, and it’s hard to imagine that it won’t, I’m with Bruce Charlton. I hope it’s not a mere farce on conservativism and/or the church (perhaps I should emphasize that the two are not necessarily related).

Harry Potter appealed to the values that both religious and non-religious, right and left share: love, courage, human decency, self-sacrifice, active concern for others. The story left some room for the natural variation of human opinion according to priority and understanding. The books would never have been as successful if they had not. I’d like to see her continue in that vein, considering the sheer mass of her influence, but that’s just me.

Eeyore April 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Jenna, I agree with you. I hope that she will continue to walk that fine line of saying what she thinks without alienating people on either side. What she did with Harry Potter was to keep the communication lines open, and we need that always.

inked April 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Frankly, an “adult” novel as captivating and enjoyable as HP seems a bit of a stretch. Though I’d like one, apart from Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novels, CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Tolkien’s LOTR, and Charles Williams novels, not to forget Dante’s Comedy, I’m at a loss to recollect others within the last 100 years that I have re-read consistently. I’ll probably hold off a bit on the purchase and see what the Professor and others here think.

Bruce Charlton April 13, 2012 at 1:08 am

It is interesting to refelct on why I am skeptical about this new novel.

It seems to reveal that I don’t trust JKR – that I expect her to have been corrupted by the process of fame. The fact that this is an adult ‘literary’ novel – not a genre novel such as historical, fantasy or scifi – suggests to me a craving for critical respectability, since the literary novel is moribund as a form, and has a very narrow range of subject – pretty much restricted to ‘personal development’ in a modern context, plus formal experiment.

The title is dreadful in a pretentious way, so that reinforced my fear.

I suppose I am expecting JKR to be a one off author, known for one great book (albeit a seven volume book) – more like Richard Adams (and Watership Down) than Tolkien (who topped the Hobbit with Lord of the Rings).

Eeyore April 13, 2012 at 1:51 am

I don’t find the title dreadful at all. I don’t think we can say that without having read the book. Hearing some of the names of the Harry Potter books made me wonder why she picked the titles, but once I read the books the titles were fine.

I’m curious why you think a genre novel is better than just a fictional novel. I like some of everything actually. But one thing I found was that it wasn’t the fantasy label that drew me into the Harry Potter books – it was the characters and their relationships and their struggles and triumphs. Those could have happened in any setting. I also found out that just because I like one fantasy series doesn’t mean I even like most of them.

I guess I’m more easily satisfied when I pick up a book. It doesn’t have to have a lot of action or adventure, just characters that have an interesting story to tell. I picked up a Maeve Binchy book (Minding Frankie) in the airport when we had a delayed flight home from Hawaii (I was afraid my Nook battery wouldn’t last long enough). It was just a story about ordinary people and their relationship to each other – and it kept me engaged and interested. Now, maybe that sort of story doesn’t interest you or the critics, but I liked it.

I’m looking forward to the new Rowling book and plan to buy it when it comes out. I don’t know whether I’ll like the book or not, but I like her writing style and her sense of humor. That’s enough for me to give it a chance without pre-judging it.

Pat

Bruce G Charlton April 13, 2012 at 3:51 am

@Pat – These are just my own impressions and opinions – clearly others will disagree. I love the HP books because of their non-modern (and transcendentally conceptualized) underlying themes – the way that unfashionable matters such as self-sacrificing love (above all) and courage are valued, the nature of life and death and the relation between them. Modern ‘foction’ novels just don’t deal with such matters, so far as I know – and I find them only in works such as those of Tolkien, Lewis, Watership Down, and a few others (many are Christian, some are pagan like Watership Down – but all are religious at root). This is the category into which I put the HP fantasies.

If the new novel is in the genre of Julian Barnes, Iris Murdoch, John Fowles, William Golding, Murial Spark, Margaret Attwood etc – then I will not be reading it. I wasted more than enough time on that kind of stuff earlier in my life! (e.g. I have a Masters in English Literature, from 20 years ago, and audited a course in the ‘best’ of modern fiction which was a kind of torture to me).

D.V April 13, 2012 at 7:26 am

I will be reading the reviews and if buying ,it will be at a second hand bokstore, either real or virtual( Abebooks ) after all the first readers, but not lovers of the book have surrendered their copies.

Mary Ellen April 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

Je t’aime, Henri. Not too sure about Barry, though. Sounds like the kind of book I would only read if hopelessly stuck in a place of great pain with no escape and no alternative like, say, Chicago O’Hare in a major blizzard or perhaps the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles ;)

John April 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm

From a friend on the West Coast:

“Sounds like she’s now bidding to be considered her generation’s George Orwell. We’ll just see.”

Could ‘Casual Vacancy’ be Ms. Rowling’s bid to become a wry political satirist and commentator? I think that is likely. And, as likely as not, unfortunate.

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