This book was eagerly awaited. After the staggering success of the Harry Potter series readers were keen to discover how JKR would make the transition to writing for adults. In the event the book had a mixed reception, but much of the negative comment concerned pricing. The hardback and ebook were released at the same time and ebook enthusiasts were angered to find the ebook version more expensive on Amazon than the hardback, but that was simply because Amazon chose to discount the hardback. It seems hardly fair to give a book a low rating because of a pricing issue which is nothing to do with the quality of the book.
I found it totally absorbing. To me it seemed strangely old-fashioned, not in content, but in style. It is slow-paced with an almost over-whelming amount of detail in the character descriptions that gives it the feel of Dickens or Trollope.
Reviewers have complained about the number of characters, but I found that the descriptions were so detailed that I carried a vivid image of each and I had no trouble keeping track. I thought that JKR shows a great ability to get inside the minds of the wide range of characters from a wide range of backgrounds. The drug scene, school bullying, self-harming, under-funded social services, mental health problems, unhappy relationships, domestic violence, teenage/parent conflict, the inflated self-importance of minor local politicians – they are all ruthlessly exposed.
It’s a meticulously-crafted, if somewhat vicious, analysis of everything that is wrong in small town England. The only problem that I have with it, and it’s a significant one, is the almost total lack of humour. Humour is a basic constituent of English life and plays a part in most conversations that I observe. Omitting humour almost entirely from such a long book makes it not only very dark, but makes the characters difficult to like.
The pricing row may be about to break out all over again. The paperback is to be published on 19th July 2013. In advance of that date Amazon has announced that it will be selling it at less than half the cover price and significantly less than the cost of the Kindle edition.
I avoided any cost and borrowed the book from our local library.
The latest print run has a new cover in less vibrant tones! The Casual Vacancy