Today is the day, folks! J.K. Rowling’s new book The Casual Vacancy hits shelves today and marks Rowling’s first attempt at publishing a novel for adults. Though many adults read Harry Potter, the series was indeed written for the “young adult” genre whereas this new novel is filled with adult themes and promises to have none of the magic the Potter series gave.
So, what will the consensus be? From what I have read online, those who go into this new novel expecting to feel a little bit of that Harry Potter nostaglia will be sadly disappointed. The characters promise to be un-lovable and, as NPR reported, the characters will most closely resemble Harry’s terrible Aunt and Uncle. However, the story will still take place in England but it is a completely “muggle world” filled with suicide, rape, drugs, murder, sex, abuse, and poverty. (Sounds rather depressing if you ask me!)
So… will it fly off the shelves? Probably. Usually, after an author has had a huge success (especially with a series), book 2 (or the book that follows the mega-hit) will be a New York Times best seller in the blink of an eye because everyone is curious what the author has up his or her sleeve. The trick is to make that book a success in the sense that it is well-reviewed.
A well-reviewed second book pretty much guarantees the third book will be a best seller as well. If the second book is ill-reviewed, the author may need to take a step back and go back to work on their previous ventures that were successful. In the case of J.K. Rowling, we will just have to wait and see how the reviews turn out. If they turn out in her favor, she will have another genre to create in. If they do not turn out well, don’t feel bad… she’s got a billion dollar empire based on Harry Potter and she certainly could go back and write more. She has announced that she would be open to writing more in the Harry Potter series… at least she has a back up plan! We will have to sit back now, read for ourselves, and wait for reviews. But if I were J.K. Rowling, I wouldn’t be too worried if the adult reviews come in negatively… Harry Potter is a pretty good back up plan with a 450 million reader following. Not too shabby.
The first 2 reviews are in:
“New York Times” and “The Guardian”
“We are firmly in Muggle-land — about as far from the enchanted world of Harry Potter as we can get,” wrote Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times. “There is no magic in this book — in terms of wizarding or in terms of narrative sorcery. Instead, this novel for adults is filled with a variety of people like Harry’s aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley: self-absorbed, small-minded, snobbish and judgmental folks, whose stories neither engage nor transport us.”
The Guardian newspaper’s Theo Tait judges it “a solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel” but praises Rowling’s depiction of the “claustrophobic horror” of a small-town community, with plenty of scheming and “everyone knowing everyone.”