The Casual Vacancy and other books by J K Rowling
Review of The Silkworm added.
When J K Rowling published this book in 2012 it was to mixed reviews. A lot of which stemmed from the fact that it was being bought by young adults anticipating another Harry Potter style story. While you can hear the writing style of the Harry Potter creator in some of the phraseology of the new book, all comparisons stop there. This is indeed a very different book. So how do you make a critique of such a book in a way that can make any sense? The answer, I think was to wait until all the hype had died down, read the book as if it stood on it's own and then review with as much unbiased opinion as possible.
At this point I can admit that I believe Joanne to be a great writer. I loved the Harry Potter stories but even though there were seven tomes, they are essentially one story. Its like trying to judge Dickens upon reading Nicholas Nickleby, a wonderful book but hardly painting a full picture of the writer who would go on to pen Tale of Two Cities and Our Mutual Friend. Joanne has a wonderful fluid style and she writes as she speaks, measured and engaging. Now I have a second book and can more clearly see where she will eventually stand in the literary world. A third book has also been written under a nomme de plume, you may remember the fracas that took place when she was identified as the actual writer, so her expanding portfolio will surely create a clearer and better picture in the years to come. Read on.....
Synopsis of A Casual Vacancy
( No Spoilers)
Casual Vacancy is over 500 pages long and starts like all good books by diving quickly into the nitty gritty, explaining the location, introducing the characters, giving a reason why there is conflict and bringing the reader up to speed and ready for the story to unfold. My only real criticism of the book is that this part takes nearly 300 pages to complete. The information is absorbing and interesting in it's own right but you are not riveted as you are with Harry Potter. I do enjoy this part of the book because I love Joanne's gentle flow of information. But it would be tough for any young reader used to the immediate action of Harry Potter. The book is based around the village of Pagford that is dominated by the politics of the neighbouring large town of Yarvil. A councillor dies unexpectedly and the lives of the surrounding community starts to unravel quickly. Several prominent locals put forward their names as a suitable replacement but their foibles are mysteriously exposed by an unknown assailant. This plays out against the backdrop of how local authorities make decisions that lead to unforeseen disastrous consequences.
At around page 300 Joanne steps in with her customary brilliance and puts the rest of the book on a knife edge. From this point on I was as riveted as I was to any of the Harry Potter novels. At this point the book becomes very adult in its audience but it is a very exciting ride and it hurtles along to its conclusion. The book is an excellent comment on small town infighting, the images of the Vicar of Dibley come to mind albeit without the comedy, and a dark but valid conclusion. I look forward to more books by JK Rowling and will learn to judge each on their own merit and not lament for the return of Harry and his friends.
Do you like the direction J K Rowling has taken with her writing
Alias Robert Galbraith
After the initial success of her first post Harry Potter book a silence fell and everyone wondered what her next book would be. Meanwhile a new writer was circulating a book call 'The Cuckoo's Calling' and received some critical praise. Whilst there was supposed to be a code of silence about who the author was, it was leaked and soon became common knowledge that Robert Galbraith was the pen name of J.K.Rowling. Of course sales then rocketed and whatever Joanne had attempted to do fell to pieces. So this review is written as if the author had published under her own name without any secrecy. The book stands well enough on its own merits and if you are a fan of Joanne's style then I do not think you will be disappointed. She writes as she speaks and its very easy on the ear.
Comoran Strike's Local Pub
Synopsis of The Cuckoo's Calling
Comoran Strike is a private detective otherwise known as a gum-shoe. He is an ex army man who lost a lower leg and foot whilst serving in Afghanistan. He is down on his luck as his girlfriend has dumped him and he is living on a makeshift bed in his office. His only piece of luck is that he has hired an assistant, Robin Ellacott, who his extremely smart and has an uncanny eye for detail. Plus a rich prospective client has just walked through the door asking for his assistance in determining what happened to his sister, Lula Landry a model who apparently jumped to her death from her Mayfair apartment. Was it murder or suicide. Comoran sets out to discover the truth but as more and more information comes to light he finds he gets deeper and deeper into a dangerous situation full of lies and deceit.
Mayfair, the area where the story takes place
J.K. Rowling takes a huge step out of her comfort zone with this book. Not only is it unlike anything she has written before but she has to weave plots and counter-plots and then unwind them at the end so that they all make sense. The biggest danger with any 'whodunnit' is inconsistencies in the plot. The characters must be in a place where they should be in order for the narrative to ring true. Having said that, Joanne manages the process admirably and the ending is hard to predict.
I cannot say I am riveted to these books like I was to Harry Potter, with Harry I literally could not put the books down and would read in a few days. Both books so far I have read and enjoyed but it has been a few chapters at a time and neither are page turners. Then again I am a big fan of science fantasy so I am probably ill equipped to judge how someone who is an avid detective reader would react to the books My guess is very favourably. One thing is true, Joanne's natural writing flare is very present in both novels and for that I must commend both to the reader.
If I were to compare the two books I would say that the Casual Vacancy drags for about half the book then slams into high speed for a roller-coaster ride to the end. Cuckoo's Calling has a a steadier approach, there is no sudden moment when all comes into place although Comoran does figure out the answer some while before the end. But both are enjoyable and if you love Joanne's style of writing then you will not be disappointed.
Synopsis of The Silkworm
I recently finished the Silkworm, this time I chose an ereader format and although it was great having the book on my tablet, I still like to nurse a book when reading. The murder in this book is particularly (possibly unnecessarily) vicious and I confess to getting past that bit as quick as I could. A well known author has disappeared and his wife asks Cormoron to investigate. The request is complicated by the fact that the author often goes missing for effect but this time the wife suggests it is unusual. The case soon becomes one of murder and sadly for the wife, she becomes the main suspect. Cormoran is in a race to identify the true killer before the wife is sent to trial. The setting is surrounded by a world of publishers, agents and lawyers and what happens when a book is submitted for publication. A world that JK Rowling is only all to familiar with.
As with the first Strike novel I cannot say that I loved this book. It is very clever and has all the new Rowling trademarks. The problem is that a lot of the suspects come from the publishing world and they are all rather faceless and I found myself mixing them up in my head. Suspects need to be distinct and this doesn't really happen. What does happen and where JK is at her strongest is in the development of the relationship between Cormoran and his assistant Robin. There is a misunderstanding between them as to what Robin wants and expects and what Cormoran sees as possible, the way it is resolved is a work of art in human understanding. Again, I love the way JK writes and this book in the end is worth reading and enjoyable.
P.S. Anyone wondering about the second photo of the Tottenham, I have decided this will be a theme and will continue with each Cormoran Strike book !!!