‘The Casual Vacancy’ receives mixed reviews from various sources
The reviews for the just released adult novel The Casual Vacancy are starting to roll in from major publications and news outlets worldwide, and while we have not posted our own review of the book at this time, we want to share with the MuggleNet fans what the press is saying about J.K. Rowling’s new book.
WARNING: There are some small spoilers in the actual reviews (not here on MuggleNet), read the entire reviews at your own risk!
From TIME Entertainment‘s Lev Grossman:
What surprised me about The Casual Vacancy was not just how good it was, but the way in which it was good. I suppose I’d expected a kind of aged-up, magicked-down Harry Potter, something that showcased the same strengths the Potter books do: Rowling’s meticulous plotting, her inventiveness, her love of mischief, her likeable characters, her knack for visual spectacle. I also expected it to showcase her weaknesses, because all writers have them. Yes, I’m a fanboy, but I still think the Potter books have too many adverbs in them, and not enough sex.
But The Casual Vacancy is a different beast entirely. It was not what I was expecting. It’s a big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence and entirely bereft of bullshit, and if it weren’t for Rowling’s stringent security measures it would or at least should have contended for the Booker Prize. This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply. It’s as if Rowling were an animagus, except that instead of turning into a stag or a dog or whatever she transformed into Ian McEwan.
From the New York Times Michiko Kakutani:
As “The Casual Vacancy” trundles along and Ms. Rowling starts grappling with the consequences of her characters’ darker secrets, the narrative gathers momentum, but it takes a lot of pages to get there. In the meantime we are treated to tedious descriptions of the political squabbles exacerbated by Barry Fairbrother’s death and historical accounts of class tensions in insular Pagford – most notably a face-off between one faction that is opposed to a public housing project and a clinic for addicts, and another that has a sense of duty toward the less fortunate. It’s a subject with the potential to reverberate with an American audience – given the current battles between Republicans and Democrats over the role and size of government – but as laid out here it’s oddly bloodless and abstract.
In some respects “The Casual Vacancy” is grappling with many of the same themes as the Harry Potter books: the losses and burdens of responsibility that come with adulthood, and the stubborn fact of mortality. One of the things that made Harry’s story so affecting was Ms. Rowling’s ability to construct a parallel world enlivened by the supernatural, and yet instantly recognizable to us as a place where death and the precariousness of daily life cannot be avoided, a place where identity is as much a product of deliberate choice as it is of fate. What’s missing here is an emotional depth of field. It’s not just because the stakes in this novel are so much smaller. (In “Harry Potter,” the civil war was literally between good and evil; here, it is between petty, gossip-minded liberals and conservatives.) It’s that the characters in “The Casual Vacancy” feel so much less fully imagined than the ones in the Harry Potter epic.
MuggleNet will be providing a Spoiler Free review of our own in the coming days.