“Unfortunately,” The New York Times said, “the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is not only disappointing—it’s dull.”
The Guardian called it a “determinedly unadventurous English novel.”
“The magic simply isn’t there,” the Daily News said. “Indeed, the spell has been broken.”
To be fair, the expectations were probably much too high – why wouldn’t they be after Rowling birthed the wizarding world of Harry Potter? However, lightning never strikes twice – praying to God that’s true for the likes of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey – and there was little chance that Rowling could set the world aflame once more.
The fact that The Casual Vacancy was 180 degrees away from magic wands and dark lords probably didn’t help either. I have to believe that many fans were hoping that – before its premise was announced – the book would contain some sort of fantastical happenings; alas, it was not meant to be.
The book is described as follows:
When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.
Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations
Not quite the Rowling we are used to and neither was it for Rowling herself.
“The next thing I write will be for children – or [rather] the next thing I publish, will be for children,” said Rowling…
This may very well be what the English author had in mind all along, or it is a smart tactic to return to the well.
Very few writers can achieve success by crossing over into new genres – Stephen King comes to mind as someone who can – and that’s why several authors have mentioned that to be successful you need to hone your craft and build your audience in a single genre, as John Scalzi attributes to his success:
“I’ve published regularly, stayed (and built an audience in) a single genre… “
You have to commend Rowling on attempting an entirely new piece of literature – most publishers and agents probably wouldn’t take kindly to you switching back and forth between genres.
It wasn’t a strike out and it wasn’t a homerun, but it was definitely a bit of a foul ball scorcher into the stands. But if you don’t take a swing, you can’t hit the ball in the first place.
Words to live by.