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All you need to know about the decade’s biggest book

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JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is a huge bestseller but no-one has even read it yet. Stylist examines the author’s first foray into adult literature.

It was the subject of blog posts, newspaper columns and magazine articles before a single journalist in the UK had even seen the front cover in person. Set to eclipse every book sales record in existence, JK Rowling’s first adult-fiction title is arguably one of the biggest career moves in fiction. The Casual Vacancy has been kept so secret, foreign publishers aren’t even allowed copies until its UK release on 27 September. Stylist’s copy will arrive the same day as yours, but here’s our guide to what we know so far about the publishing phenomenon of the decade.

The plot

Set in a country idyll after the sudden death of parish councillor Barry Fairbrother, the story follows the familial fall-out of a close-knit community at war. Pagford is not the sleepy town you think it is, and the tension builds as everyone wonders who will get Fairbrother’s seat. As the election looms, the drama intensifies.

The numbers

Selling 450million books and building a franchise worth an estimated £560million, she was the biggest-selling female author in the UK until EL James knocked her off the top spot. Now, her new release, The Casual Vacancy, has been mentioned on Twitter more than 34,000 times and, despite not being available to buy yet, pre-order sales have bumped it into the Top 20 of Amazon’s hot new releases list.

The cover

You can’t, as the saying goes, judge a book by its cover, and with The Casual Vacancy’s understated design this certainly rings true. However, the man behind it, Mario J Pulice, is one of publishing’s leading names, and has designed book covers for James Patterson, David Foster Wallace and Nelson Mandela.

The critics

"Fans who read Harry Potter as children will be the core audience for this book, without a doubt. I cannot think of an author who is more beloved by her readers." - Diane Roback, children’s book editor of Publisher’s Weekly

"What I find depressing is the amount of attention the Rowling juggernaut will get – attention disproportionate to the quality of her work." - Sameer Rahim, assistant books editor of The Telegraph

"The hype has been extreme but it always is when a high-profile author moves genres; and Rowling is about as high profile as they get. But has she ever disappointed us before?" - Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller

Picture credit: Rex Features

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