Just finished reading the first of J.K. Rowling’s two post-Harry-Potter novels. This was The Casual Vacancy, the one she published under her real name.
On the whole, my reaction was far more positive than negative. It has very little in common with Harry Potter, since it takes place entirely in a thoroughly mundane, real-life England filled with muggles. If you want to preserve the illusion that teenagers never have problems with drugs, poverty, sex, illegal hacking, depression, suicide, or simply mistreating each other, then this novel is not for you. (Cheery, isn’t it? No wizards here.) If you think that British literature should focus on the upper class, then this novel is not for you. But if you want a realistic portrayal of middle-class and low-income life in western England, infused with a dose of small-town politics, then maybe it is for you. I found it a tad slow-going but on the whole absorbing. I listened to the audiobook version, which of course might make a difference in my perceptions. In this version it was a little bit difficult to keep track of the large number of characters, since I couldn’t very well flip back to earlier mentions of a name, nor could I search for it readily as I could do in an online text version. But how often do you find a novel in which SQL plays a pivotal role? I recommend it…with all the caveats mentioned earlier in this paragraph.