Vacating the Casual Vacancy

I was first on the list at the library for the Casual Vacancy (for those who haven’t heard, the new adult novel by J.K. Rowling). I awaited it with excitement. Not as a Harry Potter fan, at least not exclusively. I awaited the novel because I know what Rowling can do with language, with story, with wit. It is not easy to be first in line for a bestseller (and we all knew long before it was published that it would be one). To be first in line, you have to practically stalk the catalog, checking often to make sure you get one of the first copies. At last the day came. I picked up the Casual Vacancy, I started to read. I did not wish for more Harry Potter, although my friendship with Harry will likely be lifelong.

I wanted so much to love this book. I wanted to rave about it, though the reviews had already been mixed. I was not able to do this.

It is infrequent that I write about a book without finishing it, but that is what I am doing. I made it through the first 50 pages (my own personal rule for giving a book a chance), I even did 55, just to get to the end of a chapter. I could not go further.

It wasn’t that the writing was bad, Rowling still knows how to write. My difficulty with this book came because I felt like she was trying to prove that she can write an adult novel. It felt like a film originally rated PG-13, where the filmmakers, feeling that wouldn’t do, added a few gratuitous sex scenes, ten extra expletives on the offensive side and called it “R.” I can deal with a sex-scene in a book, I can deal with language, however, I feel that these things should be important to the plot or the story. They should say something about the characters, or move action forward, they should not be extraneous.

As hard as she tried to make this an “adult” novel, I was left with the feeling that Harry Potter was still much more grown up.

Please feel free to share your thoughts.