Yeah. What an astronomical letdown.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it was a disappointment because it wasn’t Potter – a lot of people think that that’s the reason I feel like this, and it’s a fair enough assumption (except of course, that it’s entirely wrong). No, the truth is that The Casual Vacancy is a racist, demeaning and judgemental piece of crap – and that’s just the half of it. For those that don’t know (and a warning – spoiler alerts coming!) the book follows the town of Pagford and the events that occur after the death of a prominent figure of the town council, Barry Fairbrother (Barry? Inventive there JK…) and the attempts to fill his seat.
Now as a bookseller at Waterstones, I was well aware of the promotional restrictions put around the book; it was in no way to be affiliated with the Harry Potter series, and was to be advertised with extreme emphasis on the fact it was an adult novel. However, what we weren’t warned about was the fact that JK Rowling seems to have a limited knowledge as to what makes an adult novel – and that her version consists of “adult writing” consists of sporadic, frequent and often unnecessary bad language and scenes that, whilst admittedly were – in accordance with most of the rest of the book – badly written, verged on pornographic. OK, so let’s not think I’m a snobbish prude – yes people use bad language and it is generally quite often. But is it really quite necessary for “c**t” to be used within the first ten pages and repeatedly therein? No, is the simple answer. And as for the sex scenes – ok, so it was no Fifty Shades of Grey, but they were thrown in amongst relatively normal passages in a way that was clearly a desperate attempt to up the ante and make it adult material. They were simply uncomfortable to read. Not that I’m suggesting I like to snuggle up with a cup of tea and my latest copy of Fifty Shades for a nice bit of contented and light reading. No. I’m simply saying that JK’s risqué material was less sleazy and more queasy.
And then there’s the writing itself – oh it was painful. Long and archaic terms that, realistically, nobody but an English teacher uses (and even they don’t understand them) and only served to make the piece clumsy and awkward. The story made critical and damning accusations of those on the welfare system and racial slurs with barely acceptable reason behind it reasoning – “bullying”. JK failed to form any likeable character to get behind (by the end I wanted to climb in and slap everyone of them) and I am ashamed to say that it took me about four weeks to finish it; had it not been for my extreme aversion to starting and not finishing a book, I would’ve been perfectly happy to put it down and walk away unconcerned not knowing what happened. As it is, I don’t think I have ever reached the end of a book with as much relief that it was over.
So Ms Rowling – what’s going on? I think it must be one of two options. Firstly, she has realised that Potter can go no further – now that’s hard for me, as a hardcore Potterhead, to even find the words to admit it, but after the painful demise of the over-hyped Pottermore (having spent two hours getting to the sorting and being put in Hufflepuff, I refuse to go back on, and having gathered from my more fortunate friends that really I’m not missing out, it seems that those that remain on the site are dwindling in numbers…) it can be said that Potter can go no more. In coming to terms to this, JK has decided she must break away as far as possible from this world and create a new name for herself: thus the foul language, foul content and foul writing.
The other option is, indeed, far more disturbing: that this is actually what Rowling writes and thinks like, and the entire Harry Potter franchise was a façade behind which she could simply get published. If this is the case, then I have lost a valued idol, who always seemed to promote the good and right in a troubled and often desperate society, and the little girl who can owe her childhood and love for literature to one woman can now only turn her head in shame.
I now return to the Harry Potter series with a desperate hope that this experiment will not impact future generations on their willingness to pick up this magical world, that for me, should’ve been the only one JK Rowling created. Let this be a plea to her to stay far from this new path, and remain with what she knows and is good at.