In case you’ve been on another planet, this is the first novel for adults by the author of the Harry Potter books. The hype that attended the publication was enormously silly and rather comically misjudged: news editors recalled the long queues and midnight parties that heralded each new addition to the Potter text, and assumed this time there would be more of the same. I did a soundbite for local radio on the morning of publication, and heard a live report from the queue outside the bookshop – which contained just two people. Foyles apparently had six.
Does this mean The Casual Vacancy is a turkey? Reviews generally ranged from the sniffy (Margaret Drabble in the New Statesman) to the personally nasty (Jan Moir in the Daily Mail). Some people were upset by the amount of swearing, particularly among the teenage characters. Others objected to what they saw as the lefty propaganda implied by Rowling’s obvious sympathy with those who have not had her advantages.
Well, the headline is that it’s really not bad at all – immensely readable, often amusing and generally on the side of the angels. Did anyone, even Rowling herself, expect more? If it hadn’t been by the most successful writer in history, this book would still have made a decent