JK Rowling's new book for adults is no Harry Potter

JK Rowling's new novel is the most pre-ordered book of 2012, and it's no Harry Potter either. (Click image to order yours.)

A Casual Vacancy is a book for adults and its content is real world not fantasy. Set in the rural English town of Pagford, it's a novel about the death of a man named Barry, a parish council election with class-warfare, addiction and teen sexuality.

Writer Ian Parker has read A Casual Vacancy, and has written about it in The New Yorker. He made a point of the fact that it's for adults, quoting this: “leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed” and "...with an ache in his heart and in his balls".

While these quotes demonstrate the change from writing for children to writing for adults, in some ways the writing – according to Parker – hasn't changed so much.

“...but whereas Rowling’s shepherding of readers was, in the Harry Potter series, an essential asset, in The Casual Vacancy her firm hand can feel constraining. She leaves little space for the peripheral or the ambiguous; hidden secrets are labelled as hidden secrets, and events are easy to predict.”

“I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.”

Despite having sold 450 million Harry Potter books Rowling does not allow the enormity of her success in fantasy to restrict the direction of her writing: “I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.” She also feels no responsibility towards the sensibilities of any younger readers who may want to read her new book: "There is no part of me that feels I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher.”

While it is no secret that Rowling is a "shy and thin-skinned personality", she is confident in her writing about reality: “I had a lot of real-world material in me, believe you me.”

Her defining factors are, “Mortality, morality, [they are] the two things I obsess about,” and in A Casual Vacancy she writes around these two themes while drawing on her upbringing near the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.

It's her view that the middle-class there are snobby and harbour barely veiled loathing for residents of a neighbouring public housing estate.
 But according the Daily Mail, "locals in her old home village say the portrayal of snobby residents is as much ‘fantasy’ as Harry Potter is."

A Casual Vacancy will be available worldwide on September 27.

Read Ian Parker's profile of JK Rowling

- Josiah Hallett


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