There’s this book, see. And it’s like the British version of a Jonathan Franzen novel. It’s littered with so many character studies that it manages to wrap up an entire chunk of life in England and lay it out for the readers to mull over. It’s crass when it needs to be, blunt, confusing, and sometimes painful in the way that it perfectly captures the awkwardness of real life.
It’s a well-written book. At times it’s almost too well written, as though the clever phrases and witty structures don’t belong in such a serious plot line, but there it is. The author is talented and it shows.
Amy Tan wrote something about how the second novel of a famous author always fails. This was Rowling’s second novel, and it was doomed to fail magnificently after her first 7-book set of the first novel she wrote. How could it not, with the obscene amount of popularity that Harry Potter has?
So you have to read this book without thinking about the author. It’s a really good book, and it’s definitely the British Franzen. The ending, I will say, made me too mad to get as upset as I expected, but that’s not actually criticism. It’s more like admiration for Rowling to pull off something I didn’t want to see her do in the book. Touche, ma’am, touche.
If you liked Harry Potter and you want to read more like it, then skip this book. Seriously. She wasn’t kidding when she said it’s nothing like Harry Potter. I have this hunch that she intentionally wrote something like this, expecting it to be a flop, so people would stop holding their breaths. David said as much when I was talking about it with him.
“She probably wanted this book to not be that good, to be ignored, so everyone would ignore her for a while and she could write as a normal author instead of as the Author of Harry Potter”
A Casual Vacancy can’t be compared to Harry Potter.
If you like character studies–if you like books that are written about real people, and written to give you a real taste of society and culture, then this one is good. If you’ve read Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, then you should give this book a shot. Rowling is a strong writer and delivered this story magnificently. If you can detach entirely from comparing to previous works, then you won’t be disappointed. This book stands strongly on its own.
Here’s what I want, secretly, though.
They say that Doctor Who was always designed to be kid friendly. He’s a nice guy. Torchwood on the other hand, is dark and sad and hopeless and full of adult content that goes way beyond sex and violence. It’s not a kid’s show and it’s never pretended to be. That’s the reason the Doctor never appears on Torchwood–producers don’t want to draw in Who fans expecting to see more of that. It makes sense to me, and I approve, and I get that you guys are all scratching your heads wondering about my wonderful tangent.
Ms Rowlings, I want the Torchwood equivalent of Harry Potter from you, please. It doesn’t have to be now, or soon, but eventually. Eventually I expect that from you and I know you have it in you. You’re talented and smart and full of really great stories.
Thank you for being brave enough to make a second novel. I really liked it.