Monday, October 1, 2012

J.K.Rowling's A Casual Vacancy

Combine a ludicrously inappropriate marketing campaign (Hachette) - a global embargo a la Harry Potter; no endorsements from respected writers on the cover (that would place it for a reader); a blurb so banal that it misses the whole point - and you get the awful misplaced expectations that have bedevilled the launch of this really excellent, very substantial novel. 

This is a gritty, believable story of modern personal and social relationships - husbands/wives; parents/children; middle/lower classes; conservatives/liberals. If the author was not Rowling, but for example, Paul Murray, who wrote the wonderful Skippy Dies (also a story of teenage/adult/social conflict), then there wouldn't be this quite extraordinary squall of snooty dismissiveness and disappointment that has accompanied this novel's release.

It's not hard to describe why quality popular fiction like this works. It successfully creates a world that is totally absorbing. It is rich in believable characters. It has a plot that is complex and satisfying. The interactions between the characters are frequently intense and conflicting. It is gritty, hard-edged and often violent. People get hurt. There is a lot of pain. There is cowardice and courage. There is a totally satisfying, emotionally resonant denouement and resolution.

This describes A Casual Vacancy. It is very good indeed. I enjoyed it immensely.

(This review by Michiko Katukani of the New York Times is worth reading for the vacuous nonsense it truly is. It's typical of a Harry Potter aficionado expecting Mugglemarch to be far more magical and exciting.)