Fans lined up this morning outside of bookstores in Britain, eagerly awaiting the release of J.K. Rowling’s newest book, The Casual Vacancy, according to Yahoo News. But while previous Rowling book releases saw midnight crowds dressed in their Hogwarts best, the lines this morning were relatively short.
The differences in fan reactions are understandable, because Rowling’s latest novel is a huge departure from Harry Potter. The Casual Vacancy is set in the fictional town of Pagford in modern day England, and it has nothing to do with a magical boy attempting to save the world from an evil wizard. It’s about an unexpected death, a local election, and the resulting drama within the town. Instead of chocolate frogs and talking pictures, the world of the novel is populated with much grittier images: drugs, swears, and sex are all frequent elements of the novel, according to reviewers at The Guardian.
So far, critical reactions have been mixed. The Guardian concludes their review by saying, “The Casual Vacancy is no masterpiece, but it’s not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny,” and suggests that the book would be able to stand alone without the Rowling name attached. But the more serious tone of the novel has some readers disappointed, with Michiko Tatukani of the New York Times calling the book “dull.” Tatukani comments that the novel is “filled with a variety of people like Harry’s aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley: self-absorbed, small-minded, snobbish and judgmental folks, whose stories neither engage nor transport us.”
Meanwhile, the folks at E! are just surprised by Rowling’s use of phrases like “miraculously unguarded vagina,” but this book is no Fifty Shades of Grey. In an interview with The New Yorker, Rowling talked about the deeper themes of the novel. “There is a through-line,” Rowling said. “Mortality, morality, the two things that I obsess about.”
The Washington Post collected even more review highlights from various media sources, but if you really want to know what all the hype is about, go find yourself a copy of The Casual Vacancy, and let us know what you think!