|Image from: wikipedia|
This is J.K.'s first novel for adults following the phenomenon of the Harry Potter series. Referred to by The Guardian journalist Theo Tait as 'Mugglemarch', it is meant to be a 21st-century version of great 19th-century novels. I thought this would mean it would have a cosy crime feel. But apparently it's a bit more gritty than cosy, covering topics such as death, rape, racism and paedophilia in a small community in south-west England
The BBC ran an interesting article yesterday, looking at various reviews of The Casual Vacancy in the newspapers. My favourite comment was from The Daily Telegraph's Allison Pearson who described the novel as "The Archers on amyl nitrate". That alone makes me want to read it!
There is an interview with J.K. Rowling on iplayer at the moment. I'm always struck by how eloquent she is. She seems like a really nice person. I won't regurgitate the interview here but it made me smile to hear how nearly every cafe in Edinburgh claims to be the place where she wrote the first Harry Potter!
I was also struck by how her life has changed through her writing. And I wondered whether I'd want to be as famous as that. It sounds a bit odd - who wouldn't want their books to be bestsellers all over the world, bringing enjoyment to millions of people and fetching an income which meant you could write whatever you wanted to with no pressure for the rest of your life? But I'm not sure.
Would that success be worth people taking photographs of your children without your permission? Is it worth not being able to write in your favourite cafe anymore, or to have hundreds of people sending you letters asking for money complete with photographs of their dying relatives? How would it feel to know that there was a very high chance that your biggest writing success was behind you? [Actually, I watched an amazing talk on nurturing creativity, by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love and was coming to terms with the fact she'd probably never write such a popular book again. I REALLY reccommend it to anybody at all interested in anything creative.]
There are very few writers I would recognise if I passed in the street - Bill Bryson, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Benjamin Zephaniah. Not many. And that's part of the beauty of writing. You can be famous without being recognisable. (If, of course, you ever get to being famous at all!) I would love to write a bestseller, or seven, but I'm not sure I'd like to have the kind of success J.K. Rowling has. I would feel awkward writing anything where reviewers were forced to read my book in a locked office and sign a secrecy document before the publication date. Would you?
The Casual Vacancy has been criticised for being too long, having a melodramatic ending and lacking depth of both plot and structure. But it has also been described as stunning, highly readable and outrageously gripping. From the reviews I've seen, the "average" opinion seems to be that it is reasonably good with some very good parts, but feels like it is missing something and/or is a bit too bleak or one-sided. I don't think that will put me off though. What about you? Are you tempted to give it a go?