The Casual Vacancy

So, I was browsing the interwebz and came across a blurb for a new book due to be released in September. You may have already heard about it (word on the street is it’s going to be a best seller). Check it out:

The Casual Vacancy

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

What do you think? I have to admit, it doesn’t speak to me. In fact, even with the helpful description that it’s ‘darkly humorous’ doesn’t make me eager to read it. I think I’ll put this on me “Don’t Bother Reading” list.

Oh, wait. Maybe this will help:

Does seeing that it’s written by J.K. Rowling make a difference?

I can’t help but wonder how popular this 512 page mammoth of a book would be if it wasn’t written by Ms. Harry Potter.

The cynical side of me wants to blow a raspberry at consumerism and complain that people shouldn’t buy a book based solely on having liked the author’s previous work, with no care or regard for the quality of the new book.

The more intelligent side of me says, “Woah! Just chill it on out. When you’re a best-selling author, you’re going to want people to buy your new books based solely on having liked your previous ones. So shut up and like it.”

Hmmm… Put me down for two copies, thanks.

What do you think of Ms Rowling’s first adult book? Do you intend to buy and/or read it?

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “The Casual Vacancy

  1. Oh I’ll be onto it the moment we’re allowed to open the boxes at work! (apparently there are strict rules at bookshops with big names like Rowling and not opening boxes of new stock until a specified time). One part of me says it won’t, can’t, live up to Harry Potter, and is bound to disappoint. The other part of me knows that Rowling is a talented writer, and that it will probably be a brilliant read even if it isn’t about a boy wizard. I’m looking forward to it nonetheless!

    • Ah yes, the “don’t open until…” rules. I remember them well. 🙂 I was managing an A&R back in the old days when the HP series was still being written. The madness of Goblet’s release day was epic. Then it got crazier.

      • The Casual Vacancy will be my first experience with a big top secret new release at the bookshop. I’m looking forward to it…I think?! I imagine Harry Potter release days would have been INSANE! Apparently we won’t be allowed to open Rowling’s new one ’til 5pm release day…so it’s going to be a fun last half hour of work with the stampede…!!

  2. Jak Henson

    I’m not much of a reader, but I wouldn’t even bother watching a movie with that blurb. Actually, I wouldn’t even pick up the movie to read the back (and regardless of the cliche – keep in mind I’m coming from a visual arts perspective). Based on it’s imagination-free 1960’s poster-like front cover, I would expect it to be a mid 1950’s film that had a reprinted cover in the 1960’s to make it look fresh but also play on the fact that the only selling factor to the movie is the main actor (which must be the name plastered across the top of the cover in a respectable font). So… maybe I would pick it up because I quite like 1950 films. And in re-reading the back, with a 1950’s film in mind, it actually works.

    Have a look at the webpage listed below of a 1950’s preview, then go back and read the blurb using the same voice…and it all makes sense.

    • It’s interesting that the cover makes you think of a 1950s film. The cover design was only released last week, and has caused all sorts of polarising opinions on the net. I’ve read articles by visual designers and marketers saying it’s a terrible cover and reveals nothing about the book, that it’s clearly relying on Ms Rowling’s name as the sole selling point. On the other hand, I’ve read a couple of articles written by designers who love it — they point to recent trends in book marketing and other titles which have used a similar style of bold colours and hand-drawn writing to make the title stand out without actually revealing anything about the nature of the book.

      It doesn’t appeal to me at all — to me it says: “I’m a commercial fiction book masquerading as something Important and Groundbreaking.” That alone would make me pass over it in a bookstore. But, on the other hand, I’m a spec fic reader. Someone who reads more widely in contemporary fiction may have a completely different opinion.

  3. Hi Jo, have you seen what this book costs? The Kindle download is 19,99 and I wouldn’t pay that for any novel. I think the hardback is around 35,00. I read all the HP books, but this one has to do without me.

    • That does seem expensive for an ebook, although I guess you can charge anything you want if people will pay it. $35 is pretty standard for a hardback though — at least when it comes to a list price. The later HP hardcovers had a list price of…. $45 I think (in Australia, anyway), but they generally sold for around the $30 mark.

      Your average mass market paperback in Australia sells for $19 though, so perhaps that’s why the price doesn’t seem too outrageous to me.

  4. I hate to say this, but, as a rule, if something gets REALLY popular, I avoid it altogether. I never read the Harry Potter books, or The Hunger Games, or anything that’s been overwrought or overhyped. I may pick it up someday, many years from now, when no one’s looking, but I’m a terrible lemming, unless I’m leading others off a cliff myself.

    • You and I have so much in common. 🙂

      In my defence, though, I started reading HP before it really took off with the kind of momentum it eventually achieved. And certainly long before movie deals were in the works. I read The Hunger Games to see what all the fuss was about (and I’m glad I did!) but I generally steer away from over-hyped stuff as well. And this is why I’ve never watched Titanic, Forest Gump, The Dark Knight, and about a million other over-popular movies.

  5. $19.99! Against the Day was only $12.99, and that’s over a thousand pages in hard copy.

    I wasn’t going to buy this anyway, but cripies, that’s a lot of money for a book that doesn’t sound very interesting.

  6. I have yet to read the last Harry Potter book, although I did enjoy the rest. There are just so many more books out there than I have time to read. I have to say this does NOT sound like something I will snatch up, unless I hear some really good word-of-mouth on it.

    • It’s hard, isn’t it? Sometimes I look at the list of books I’d like to read and I wonder how I’ll ever find the time. But she who dies with the most books wins!
      Right? 🙂

  7. I’ll likely read it. I won’t stay up until midnight to buy it–mainly because I can’t stay up past 9:30.

  8. In all honesty… I read overwhelmingly within the Speculative Fiction genres. And… well… telling me that “Pagford isn’t what it seems” and then having the rest make it clear that it’s about a hyper-local election farce… well… that doesn’t give me much “speculative” to hang a hat on. So that chances are that no, I won’t be picking this up or reading it. Even if it’s huge and everyone loves it. I know I’m supposed to “read outside my genre”, but, well… there’s so much inside my genre to read that I’m probably already good for books until the day I die, even without all the new and good ones I want to read.

    • I like to read outside my genre, but I’m quite picky about it. I largely read thrillers and crime fiction — because both use techniques and styles that I think can be used effectively within the urban fantasy genre to spice things up. Oh, and I read the occasional paranormal romance, but the line between that ad urban fantasy is sometimes very thin.

      As for this… I don’t think there’s likely to be a skerrick of spec fic to be found.

  9. Zen

    I most definitely intend to buy it, though I must say I didn’t like that cover all that much. If it wasn’t for her name there, I might’ve not given it a second look.

  10. Honestly, I kinda wanna be one of the first ONLY because everyone is going to read this book and I’m sick of being the last to know. And for the record that Grey book I shall never ever ever read.

  11. It would not sell at all if it were not hers.

    Smart move on the cover, though. That’s not a cover so much as it is a screaming, yelling logo. OH i see you are reading THAT BOOK BY JK ROWLING THE AUTHOR OF THE HARRY POTTTAAAAA PANT PANT heavy breathing.

  12. Yes. I will buy it, read it, and fully anticipate loving it. What better reason to buy a book than because you like something else written by the same person?

    • See, you are exactly the kind of reader that every writer wants to have reading their books. ANd you’re right, of course, that’s exactly the best reason to buy it. It’s just hard (for some of us) when an author crosses into another genre that we don’t enjoy as much.

      For example, Jim Butcher is totally my hero. His Dresden Files books are some of my favourite novels ever — and, in fact, they (and he) are what made me realise that I am at heart an urban fantasy writer. He’s also written a straight fantasy series. I read the first book and… well, “hated it” seems awfully harsh. But I didn’t at all connect to the setting or the characters, I didn’t enjoy the premise, and I haven’t read any of the rest of that series.

  13. This book does not speak to me either. The cover does nothing to reel me in nor does the blurb. I would not read it just because her name is on it either.

    I understand she probably has a great desire to distance herself from YA novels and in particular anything that even remotely seems like the Harry Potter books. There must be such a feeling of pressure on her to do another series as magical as that one and that would be a hard task to undertake.

    I think writing a more straight shooting adult book is a good idea for her but I also think it is very risky because so much of her fan base is down to the genre she became famous for working within. I guess it really comes to the idea that she will see if she can sell books based on her name alone.

    • I think anything she did would have been risky, to be honest. At least this way no one will be reading it expecting the wizarding world to be hiding right around the corner. Imagine the pressure/difficulty she would have had if she’d written a different fantasy.

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