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Tall poppies don’t come much taller than JK Rowling, certainly not in the literary world, so it’s no surprise that her first book since Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy, has copped a pasting from some critics, or worse, been described as largely ordinary.

The book, Rowling’s first foray into adult content, went straight to the top of best-seller lists after selling 2.6m copies on pre-order with the only publicity for it being the fact that JK wrote it – reviewers were forced to sign strict embargoes.

But now it’s on sale, the experts have waxed lyrical, and the response is mixed, to be generous.

With sex, drugs, a rape scene, death and people being mostly awful to each other, it’s definitely not a children’s book – so it’s mission accomplished on the moving on from the bespectacled wizard, but no review is without a mention of him or his mates at Hogwarts.

The novel opens with the death of a parish councillor in the idyllic fictional town of Pagford, believed to be based on Tutsill where Rowling grew up, leading to a battle for his seat. And like Harry Potter, there’s a stack of characters to keep up with, but all of them have been labelled as unlikeable.

As the New York Daily News said, the racy tale about small town politics ‘isn’t dreadful. It’s just dull’. And hardly original: ‘We’ve read it before, darker, bleaker and better,’ the paper adds.

"It quickly becomes clear that this is not the book we might have been expecting,’ writes the Telegraph.

The Guardian calls it ‘no masterpiece, but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny.’ And in probably the highest praise the paper could muster: ‘I could imagine it doing well without any association to the Rowling brand.’

AP refers to turning the closing pages as ‘unbearable, but not as much as putting down the book would be.’

The Evening Standard says: ‘The book is quite punishing to read and the view of human nature it takes is more fundamentally lowering than that of the most cynical French aphorist.’

And with one of the great book-to-film comparisons of all time, The New Yorker writes: ‘The book’s political philosophy is generous, even if its analysis of class antagonisms is perhaps no more elaborate than that of Caddyshack."

Sounds like a ringing endorsement to us.

Image via Getty


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JK Rowling's first adult novel The Casual Vacancy released today to lukewarm reviews
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