JK Rowling: The Casual Vacancy reviews – what the critics said

From The Telegraph:

As it hits the bookshops, The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowlings' first post-Harry Potter novel, is at the top of the bestseller lists with 2.6m copies sold on pre-order. But Rowling's first adult novel, which charts the aftermath of the unexpected death of a member of the parish council in the seemingly idyllic town of Pagford, has divided opinion. Here are excerpts from some of the reviews:

Christopher Brookmyre (Telegraph): “It quickly becomes clear that this is not the book we might have been expecting. Recently arrived social worker Kay’s first visit to a drug-addict mother of two at her home in the Fields brings us into the very heart of the world that the hawks on the parish council would like to simply wish away. It is a heart-in-the-mouth passage, taut with dread, invoking in the reader a vivid mirror of Kay’s own fear, revulsion, anger, compassion and sorrow. … There is villainy, from domestic violence to sexual abuse, including a rape scene that is most shocking in its banality for both parties. Neither the victims nor their assailants expect justice from any external agency, and nor should the reader: There are few resolutions, and no promises of wish-fulfilment. This is undoubtedly where the book takes its greatest risks. 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.”

Deepti Hajela (Associated Press): “So look, here's the thing: This. Is. Not. A. Children's. Book. If you're looking for what made Harry Potter magical – Wizards! Spells! Flying Broomsticks! — you're not going to find it. If you're looking for what makes JK Rowling magical – emotion, heart – you will. … [The] ability to bring her characters to their emotional life was a hallmark of the Harry Potter series – it didn't become a global phenomenon just because it was an exciting adventure, but because there was a real heart to it, characters who had both strengths and weaknesses, who struggled with their choices. That's what makes this book worth it, despite a slow start and sometimes too much of the descriptions and adjectives that added life to Harry Potter but at times tend to bog Rowling down here. That's what makes the book's ending scenes so heartbreaking – turning the page seems unbearable, but not as much as putting down the book would be.”

More here.