J. K. Rowling on Casual Vacancy at Southbank Centre

More on event here at Best Chick Lit and at The Guardian. Mark Brown reviewed the first reviews there:

The reviews so far have been mixed, to say the least. The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir asked herself whether the book lived up to hype?

“On balance, I would have to say no. Not unless you want to have more than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat.”

Christopher Brookmyre, writing in the Daily Telegraph, enjoyed it. “One marvels at the skill with which Rowling weaves such vivid characters in and out of each other’s lives, rendering them so complex and viscerally believable that one finds oneself caring for the worst of them.”

The Casual Vacancy will not hit the heights of Harry Potter – more than 450m worldwide sales – but it is likely to go straight to the top of the fiction bestseller chart – the question is: how long for?

Rowling’s hope for Reading Experience? Tears.

The book is unquestionably for adults. Lawson said he had noted the book’s themes when he was reading it: drug addiction, rape, alleged paedophilia.

“It’s a cheery book,” joked Rowling. “Clearly a comedy … good beach read.” …

JK Rowling’s new book has been out less than 24 hours and some who have read it all have admitted tears at the ending.

And that’s how she wants it: “I don’t think I would have much to say to anyone who did not at least tear up a bit,” she told an audience.

“I don’t think I could have any kind of warm feeling towards someone who didn’t feel sad towards the end.”

From The Guardian‘s review of the book:

Generally, though, 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 inhabitants of Pagford – shopkeepers, window-twitchers, Daily Mail readers – are mostly hateful Muggles, more realistic versions of the Dursleys, the awful family who keep poor Harry stashed in the cupboard under the stairs. The book seems doomed to be known as Mugglemarch.


  1. I’m not very far in yet, but I think the comparison to Elizabeth Gaskell is apt. Actually, she is the author I thought of. Pagford is hardly Cranford, but it’s similar, in that it’s a small town with a lot of unique people who all know everyone else and their business. And anything that happens is of interest to everyone who lives there.

    In that respect, it reminds me of the small town where I grew up. So far, I’m finding it interesting and I want to know more about the people and what makes them who they are.

    I see some style similarities in Rowling’s writing, but I’m not sure I would just pick the book out as hers. I’ve loved reading Maeve Binchy’s novels through the years, but even when the stories are set in completely different places with different people, they are strikingly similar. This book has some of the same things I liked about Binchy’s novels – lots of characters who weren’t always predictable, but I can see how politics will play a large part in the story. In that way, it’s similar to some of the underlying themes in Harry Potter – lots of political issues were included there as well.

    So far, it seems to me that Rowling has a different approach in this novel than we were used to in Harry Potter. And of course, all those times that Ron or someone else swore or said things Mrs. Weasley would not like – we now know exactly what the words were, if we hadn’t the imagination to fill in the blanks before. LOL

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