Rowling's adult novel lacks magic, some critics say

Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:54am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - J.K. Rowling's first foray into adult fiction was bound to be compared to her wildly successful Harry Potter series, and, while "The Casual Vacancy" has earned mixed reviews, for some critics the magic has worn off.

The Casual Vacancy, which hits the shelves on Thursday, looks destined for the top of the bestseller lists whatever the reaction, with Rowling's celebrity status guaranteeing public anticipation and media attention in equal measure.

In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani likened some of Rowling's small-minded, snobby characters to the odious Dursley family from the Harry Potter tales.

"One can only admire her gumption in facing up to the overwhelming expectations created by the global phenomenon that was Harry Potter," Kakutani wrote.

"Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly cliched that 'The Casual Vacancy' is not only disappointing — it's dull."

Other critics were less damning, however, and several reviews in British and U.S. newspapers argued that, while not great, Rowling's eagerly anticipated break from the world of child wizards and witches was good.

"The Casual Vacancy is no masterpiece, but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny," said Theo Tait in the Guardian newspaper.

"The worst you could say about it, really, is that it doesn't deserve the media frenzy surrounding it. And who nowadays thinks that merit and publicity have anything do with each other?"   Continued...

A woman poses with a copy of author J K Rowling's first adult fiction book The Casual Vacancy after it went on sale at a bookshop in central London, September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Neil Hall