The reviews are in…

The first of many reviews for The Casual Vacancy are in. Some love it, while some loathe it, but all critics can agree that this book is not for children and is far from the world of Harry Potter.

We have compiled some reviews you may want to read and included them down below. We will be releasing our review of the book this Saturday.

The Guardian (UK) has given a lukewarm review of the book, saying “the worst you could say about it, really, is that it doesn’t deserve the media frenzy surrounding it…” Here are some excerpts:

The book has a righteous social message, about responsibility for others, and a great big plot that runs like clockwork; like the Potter novels, it is efficiently organised beneath its busy surface.

No one, I suspect, reads Rowling for the beauty of her sentences but there is often a sense here that the language is not quite doing what she wants it to do. One character, we are told, “hated sudden death”. Who doesn’t? The metaphors regularly run away with her. One character’s sexual performance was “as predictable as a Masonic handshake”. What’s predictable about that?

The fanbase may find it a bit sour, as it lacks the Harry Potter books’ warmth and charm; all the characters are fairly horrible or suicidally miserable or dead. But the worst you could say about it, really, is that it doesn’t deserve the media frenzy surrounding it. And who nowadays thinks that merit and publicity have anything do with each other?

The New York Times has given an absolutely terrible review of the novel, saying, “Unfortunately, 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.”

We do not come away feeling that we know the back stories of the “Vacancy” characters in intimate detail the way we did with Harry and his friends and enemies, nor do we finish the novel with a visceral knowledge of how their pasts — and their families’ pasts — have informed their present lives. Of course, Ms. Rowling had seven volumes to map out the intricacies of the wizarding world in Harry Potter. The reader can only hope she doesn’t try to flesh out the Muggle world of Pagford in any further volumes, but instead moves on to something more compelling and deeply felt in the future.

Lev Grossman of TIME has given the book its first positive review, as far as we can see. Read the review and find out why he thinks the book is “great”.

But after about ten pages of The Casual Vacancy I began to forget about all that stuff, and online rumors about how the book was amazing or awful or had lots of sex in it. I forgot about how I had three days to write a review of a 500-page book. I forgot about everything except the pages in front of me. Because I had come under the spell of a great novel.

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.

It’s rare to see a writer whom you think you know well unfold a new dimension like this, a dimension that you didn’t even suspect existed. The Casual Vacancy is, in a funny way, not so much an extension of the Harry Potter books as their negative image: it’s a painfully arbitrary and fallen world, a world that, bereft as it is of the magic that animates and ennobles Hogwarts, sags and cracks under its own weight. After his furtive coupling with Krystal, a melancholy, post-coital Fats thinks, “He wished he could simply be transported, this instant, to his attic bedroom.” Harry would just have apparated there. But Fats, like the rest of us, must take the long way home.

Those are only a few of the reviews. Others will be released online over the next week. We’ll be updating this constantly with the latest reviews, so come back to this article if you want to hear what everyone is saying.


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