HAS J.K. Rowling lost her magic with her latest novel, The Casual Vacancy? Dealing with tensions between council estate residents and the wider more affluent community, it’s loosely based on her own difficult experiences growing up in the Forest of Dean and tackles class snobbery, poverty and welfare issues.
While a number of newspaper reviews were positive, others were less flattering. According to The New York Times, it’s “not only disappointing. It’s dull” and lacking “emotional depth”. For The Sunday Times, it’s sentimental, moralising and melodramatic, “devoid of originality and grip”.
The only review more vicious was Jan Moir’s in the Daily Mail. Musing whether The Casual Vacancy lived up to the hype, ballyhoo and brouhaha surrounding its publication, she concluded: “Not unless you want to have more than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat.
“Not unless you happen to be, like J.K. Rowling herself, the kind of blinkered, left-leaning demagogue quick to lambast what she perceives to be risible middle-class values, while failing to see that her own lush thickets of dearly held emotions and prejudices are riddled with the same narrow-mindedness she is so quick to detect in others.”
Now whatever your opinion of this novel aimed at adults, it can’t be denied that Rowling’s Harry Potter books encouraged many children, especially boys, to read. And given the levels of literacy in the UK, that’s surely to be applauded. And she’s remained a domiciled taxpayer, not living in some far-off tax haven.
Some claim all this criticism won’t make the slightest bit of difference to her – she’ll just larf all the way to the bank. Except I’d guess she does care. Why write another novel, anyway? Hardly for financial gain.To satisfy a thirst to produce great art? Possibly, but she could just write for herself and stash it away somewhere. No, she wrote and published to prove she can write proper adult literature.
However, chances are, copies of The Casual Vacancy will end up left in some hotel room. After all, Travelodge, the budget hotel chain, reported that around 7,000 copies of E.L. James’s bestselling Fifty Shades books have been recovered since publication.
Travelodge further claims a total of 21,786 books were found in its hotel rooms this year. And unusual reading material, too! Most copies of The Dukan Diet were found in Essex, Newcastle and Liverpool Travelodges; a suitcase of Mills & Boon books belonging to a middle-aged couple from Leamington Spa Travelodge; and a briefcase of superhero comics from its Peterborough property.
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Soul Stealer’ & ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.