JK Rowling's 'Casual Vacancy': too rude, too political, too dull
American critics shocked by Harry Potter author's profanity: 'This is definitely not a book for children'
CRITICS have slammed Harry Potter author JK Rowling's first novel for adults as being too political, too vulgar, and, worst of all, too dull.
The Casual Vacancy went on sale today and marks a considerable departure from the magical world of Harry Potter.
Set in an idyllic English town named Pagford, during a local election, Rowling has swapped wizards, wands and unicorns for sex, drugs, rape, self-harming and death. The left-leaning author also appears to be making a political point that has divided critics.
Theo Tait in The Guardian says the novel has "a righteous social message, about responsibility for others, and a great big plot that runs like clockwork". It is "no masterpiece", he says, "but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny".
On the other hand, Jan Moir of the Daily Mail describes the reading experience as having "500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat".
Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph believes the book is at its weakest when it is most "angrily political" but says the author is at her best when she is "on home ground", dealing with the teenage characters, their inchoate yearnings and lonely friendships.
Pearson says it feels as if the author has "unleashed all the swearing, sex and vitriol" that have been off-limits to her since the first Harry Potter was published. She adds: "I shudder to think how this stuff will go down in the States, which adored Harry Potter for its Britishness, and which believes Four Weddings and a Funeral to be a work of documentary realism."
Indeed the New York Daily News is shocked by the book's "unforgettable profanity".
"[Rowling] shows herself proficient at tossing out the F-word, and a long passage is devoted to an exploration of online porn by two teenage boys who get an eyeful," says the newspaper. "And it’s more than just magic wands and white owls - what the teens see is described in extremely graphic terms."
Perhaps the most damning criticism is that the novel is dull. The Casual Vacancy has the "ready appeal of reading minutes from a planning board", says the New York Daily News, concluding: "The magic simply isn't there".
"This is definitely not a book for children," says the New York Times, adding that the real-life world created by Rowling is "so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd" that it is "not only disappointing - it's dull".
Back in London, The Times concedes that The Casual Vacancy does sound a little dull but praises Rowling for reviving the idea of the Dickensian novel as "a force for social good".
"Perhaps it's no bad thing to be reminded that novels might, once again, do more than simply entertain us."