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First reviewers highlight J K Rowling's politics
27.09.12 | Charlotte Williams
Mixed reviews for J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown) this morning (27th September) have highlighted its political content and dramatic new direction, with one commentator describing it as "Irvine Welsh meets Joanna Trollope".
Christopher Brookmyre in the Telegraph awards the novel four stars, describing it as a "far from cosy take on the fractures at the heart of modern Britain". Brookmyre says it is "not the novel we might have been expecting", and advises prime minister David Cameron to avoid the book, saying it "savagely eviscerates" Cameron's Big Society notion.
Allison Pearson's review in the same newspaper gives it three stars, and says that, unlike Harry Potter, there is "no wand to wave, no spell to make the horror go away" when it comes to the sadness in the novel.
Theo Tait in the Guardian calls it "solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous", but says that the book "immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world", and that "the claustrophobic horror is nicely done". However, he says: "It all rattles along nicely enough, but it leaves a slight sense of disappointment", before concluding that "the worst you can say about it is that it doesn't deserve the media frenzy surrounding it".
Meanwhile, Boyd Tonkin in the Independent calls the novel "Irvine Welsh meets Joanna Trollope" and highlights the more adult content that Rowling would never have been able to include in the Harry Potter series, saying the book is "her song of freedom". However, he says that despite the more hard-hitting plot elements, such as online porn, drug dealing and heroin addiction, the book does "fall back into [Hogwarts'] emotional orbit". Tonkin also praises her depiction of the teenagers in the book, saying: "Rowling's writing, which can be long-winded and laborious in the clunkily set-pieces, picks up passion, verve and even magic with Krystal and the other adolescents".
Over on the other side of the Atlantic, the New York Times describes the setting of the novel as "about as far from the enchanted world of Harry Potter as we can get". Michiko Kakutani's review cuts in the novel, saying: "The real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly cliched that The Casual Vacancy is not only disappointing-it's dull," and adds: "It's as though writing about the real world inhibited Ms Rowling's miraculously inventive imagination."
Jan Moir writing in the Daily Mail also says the novel does not live up to its hype, describing it as "500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat". She says Potter fans will be shocked by the novel's content, and adds: "It is overlong, slow to start and bogged down with detail and a confusing rash of characters. But then, who would dare to edit the most successful author in the world?"