JK Rowling's new novel sold 2.6 million copies before it was even released, but is it any good?
Newspaper critics devoured The Casual Vacancy as soon as the long-awaited books were hand-delivered to their desks - but verdicts of Rowling's first foray into adult literature vary from "startlingly well observed" to "unadventurous".
The Casual Vacancy: What The Critics Say
The Independent: "Rowling's writing can be laborious in set-pieces but picks up magic with the adolescent characters." (Boyd Tonkin)
The Guardian: "The Casual Vacancy is a solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel." (Theo Tait)
The Daily Telegraph: "The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling’s first adult novel, is sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed, and full of cruelty and despair." (Allison Pearson)
The Evening Standard: "The problem for Rowling's legions of fans will be that she has forgotten to include any basic likeability in her characters here or any real suspense as to what will happen - or deliberately chosen not to supply it." (David Sexton)
The Daily Express: "The book isn't flawless. Her writing style is direct and uncomplicated rather than literary and she has an annoying habit of shoving slabs of explanatory detail into brackets." (Emma Lee-Potter)
New York Times: "It's as though writing about the real world inhibited Ms Rowling's miraculously inventive imagination, and in depriving her of the tension between the mundane and the marvellous constrained her ability to create a two-, never mind three-dimensional tale." (Michiko Kakutani)
Daily Mail: "More than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat ... the kind of blinkered, left-leaning demagogue quick to lambast what she perceives to be risible middle-class values, while failing to see that her own lush thickets of dearly held emotions and prejudices are riddled with the same narrow-mindedness she is so quick to detect in others". (Jan Moir)
The Telegraph: "One marvels at the skill with which Rowling weaves such vivid characters in and out of each other's lives, rendering them so complex and viscerally believable that one finds oneself caring for the worst of them. However, upon hearing the cries of so many souls in pain, the more sensitive reader might begin to crave a leavening of hope, or to fear that Rowling's own cry is one of despair." (Christopher Brookmyre)
Mirror: "This is realism, red raw. Yet The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read which might seem odd given the nature of the material." (Henry Sutton)
Evening Standard: "What the book has in common with Harry Potter is the ability to marshall an extraordinary number of characters into a coherent narrative, and a prose style so clunkily over-descriptive and repetitiously structured that it presents quite a barrier to the reader with any interest in language, until you are able to forget it, like reading a ropey translation, and concentrate on the story instead". (David Sexton)
USA Today: "This is a courageous departure for Harry Potter's creator. Unfortunately, The Casual Vacancy reads less like a work of fiction and more like a plea for Britain's comfortable middle-class Muggles to be more aware of the obstacles faced by poor children growing up in dysfunctional homes." (Deirdre Donahue)
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