‘Banning the bullshit’ Sunday: ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling


Sheesh! It’s only bleedin’ Sunday…

I mean, how does that happen? It was Sunday… well, a week ago! ūüėČ

Welcome back to the home of crapola-free, honest, tell-it-like-it-is book blogging. You know there’ll be no doo-da here! Guaranteed.

So, who’s in the firing line today then? I hear you bannishers of all things brown and sloppy ask… and well you might.

The venerable J.K.

Yup, Mrs. HP herself.


Look, let’s get one thing clear right now: I am a writer, but first and foremost (and definitely in the first instance) I am a reader. So let’s not get into the whole ‘oh-em-gee-writers-slagging-other-writers-off’ thing. I am a paying customer who has a right to talk about what I thought of a book. ‘K? Are we clear? Good, then let’s get to it…

‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J. K. Rowling.

Firstly…WTF!? What is that cover about? What were the publishers thinking?

We are told¬†over and over¬†in a gazillion blogs that good covers are MUST. But then again, when you’ve sold a bazillion books and the world knows who you are, is it so important?

Clearly not.

Moving on…actually, no. Let’s back up for a second. Methinks therein lies the problem with this book. Oh, did I mention that there was one? Well there is:

It’s rubbish.

I’m sorry, but it is. (or should I say “I think it is.”)

And after all, it’s what you come here for right? To be told the truth – about what I think, at least.

I suppose I kinda had some forewarning.

No, I wasn’t a beta-reader and I didn’t manage to snaffle a dodgy-copy off t’interwebspacethingy – I merely watched an interview with Joanne (can I call her that? Yeah, sure I can, I have spent lots of my hard-earned dosh on her over the years, I can call her what I like; within reason) the other morning whilst on holiday.

My heart sank at her words and I knew then that I would be wasting the best part of a Friday evening takeaway on her latest book.

Any writer who can sit there with a straight face and say that these days, they¬†¬†“only write when they have something to say” has either: fallen out of love with their craft, has far too much money or must have something uber-important and earth-shattering to tell us.

I will leave you guys to work out which one of the above applies to Ms Rowling.

Now look, please don’t get me wrong. There is no bigger fan of the Harry Potter books than myself. I’ve read them all, seen all the films and even have the game for the Playstation. Come on, who wouldn’t want to play Quidditch? Huh? In fact, I have long been an admirer of JK’s story and her rise to fame and there isn’t a writer in the world who wouldn’t want to emulate her success, but that is what saddens me the most.

JK had the chance to sit down with a blank piece of paper, an empty mind and the world at her feet. She could have written anything she liked, with no holds barred, no boundaries and the unique knowledge that whatever spilled out onto the page would be an instant world-wide hit.

What an opportunity to do something incredible.

Not many writers ever get that chance.

What would the World’s best-selling (I don’t count Fifty Shades of Grey as literature), most famous writer come up with?

Barry Fairbrother.

Yup. Oh, wait and a story about a small Parish Council in a town called Pagford.

Hang on a mo’… this from the woman who had to live with a boy-wizard who slept under the stairs and had an owl for a pet in her head for the best part of a decade and actually cried when she wrote the scene that killed¬†a key character off? The most popular childrens’ author for a long time that dreamt up an entire school and other world and everything in it? Hell, she created a fictitious¬†sport that has its own clubs, even though you can’t actually play it and that is the best she could come up with?

Words fail me.

They clearly swerved her too when she sat down to write, if the opening lines are anything to go by:

Ok, I know you can’t judge a book by the first chapter… can you? How much farther would an agent or publisher have¬†read had they slid this off the top of their latest slush pile from an unknown wannabe-writer?

What happened to the killer hook? Is that another rule we’re to ignore? Let’s¬†read on. It’s bound to get better…

Ok, enough already. Please stop!

It gets worse, believe me.

I managed up to 27% before I finally threw in the towel (well, more like launched my Kindle). I tried again some time later and plodded through the remaining, soul-destroying 73%.

I am gutted. Sooooo disappointed. And so, it seems, is everyone else.

These are the early reviews and trust me when I say, that has improved a little since yesterday.

The star-spread was 2.5 then.

Other sites fair slightly better, but not much.

There are some damning reviews on Amazon among the 1 and 2 stars, mostly voicing disappointment, but some, aiming scathing attacks at the publishers and the price of the book.

Personally, before the advent of the Kindle, I would think nothing of spending £10-17 on a hardback from one of my favourite writers. Not so much these days, but I am still willing to pay a fair price to read something from a writer I love.

What I do begrudge, is shelling out on something that has either clearly been written by someone else or has been written by someone who wrote for the sake of writing.


Yes, it’s true, sometimes I put pen to paper to see what might happen.¬† Difference is, ¬†it ends up in the bin if I don’t feel the magic or can’t see the characters clearly in my head and I don’t jump out of bed the next day, dying to find out what they might do next.

I can’t begin to guess at what JK was thinking when she wrote this. Even my imagination doesn’t stretch that far.

She hinted that she wasn’t done with Harry yet too. I hope that’s the case. I would love to see where she takes him next.

Maybe she can invent some new spells whilst she’s at it…




But mostly, I hope she falls in love with words again.




Writer, dreamer, pantser.

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Posted in books, writing
10 comments on “‘Banning the bullshit’ Sunday: ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling
  1. Jeyna Grace says:

    You cant call her Joanna.. cause her name is Joanne. LOL. It would be a bit odd dont you think?

    Anyways, I have to agree, the cover is…. unattractive. And, from the basic plot line I’ve heard, it doesnt interests me. Surprisingly though, I’ve read more good reviews than bad on blogs, which is weird, considering the general ratings for her new book are low.

  2. Zen says:

    I have been shying away from this book. While I love JKR, I don’t think I will like this book at all and it will ruin my perfect image of her. =[ I looked at the first link at the bottom of your post, and I was surprised to see just how dirty her book was. If I ever decide to read it, I’ll do so when the paperback comes out because the hardcover is a bit pricey.

  3. annerallen says:

    I had been eagerly awaiting this–and in spite of the awful cover and overpricing, I genuinely looked forward to reading it. Until I did what you did and looked at the first chapter. She broke every rule of engaging the reader in the opener. And then she killed the POV character on page two. Reviews and bad press and even a bad cover don’t sway me, but if I open a book and find bad writing–I’m not going to buy.it. She’ll still make millions on it because she’s J.K. Rowling, but she’s probably not going to be able to sell another adult novel unless she self-publishes it.

  4. Charley R says:

    Heh, I avoided this book I have to say – as did most of my family. Me, because I’m not into its rape-suicide-general-nasty-life content, and my mum because her friend read it and said pretty much the same thing you did. She hated it.

    So sad that, really.

    Also, not counting Fifty Shades of Grey as literature. Let me hug your knees and sob thankfully. I spotted one of my classmates reading the last book in the trilogy the other day and nearly had a heart attack. I’m not one for author hate but . . . really? Gyeah.

  5. I had fears something like this might happen with Rowling’s new book. thank you for saving my pennies.

    That said I still need to get that Harry Potter Trilogy on my shelves so my kids can read it when they ‘come of age’… Although… 7 isn’t too young to satrt and they did mostly sit through “the Wizard of Oz”.

    :} Cathryn

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