The Casual Vacancy — can it live up to the hype?

JK Rowling’s new book – did you hear enough about it today?  Have you been waiting on the edge of your seat or do you think this book is way over-exposed?  Is Rowling getting the special treatment — or are the critics being a little too harsh?
I haven’t read Vacancy yet, but based on the press today I’m going to say all of the above.  Adults camped out for this book, children are upset they’re not allowed to read it, and the book critics are disappointed that it isn’t the next Franzen’s Freedom.  In one day it’s already been talked about too much.
This may not be a perfect novel, and my Kindle copy was certainly overpriced at $17.99 — but I feel like I’ll sympathize with Rowling however the book turns out.  After all, this is a writer whose success cannot be compared to anyone else.  How is she possibly going to follow up the success of Harry Potter, an effort she spent most of the last 22 years on?  She can’t — or, she can but my expectations aren’t super high.
My sense is she’s gone as far as possible in the other direction, and maybe too far.  It’s not a fantasy novel, and it isn’t a children’s book.  But in trying to make this an “adult” novel (because after all, adults loved HP too), it sounds like she’s piled on the sex, drugs, death and violence, which makes me wonder if she isn’t trying TOO hard to call this an “adult” novel?
If the book is great, kudos to Rowling.  She’ll have followed up one of the most beloved series ever and succeeded.  If it’s just so-so, I’m happy to give her credit for taking her work in a new direction.  Coming out with a non-Harry Potter, non-magical, non-YA book seems pretty gutsy to me.  It’s hard for writers to finish a series and do something totally different.  Of course JK Rowling can pretty much do whatever she wants.  And if she decides after this book to go back to a YA fantasy series, I’ll be happy with that too.
Really, I’m just happy she’s written something.

My husband asked me if I thought, to be fair, this book should be read as if we don’t know who the author is?  An interesting question, to the extent that’s ever possible.  Should every book (except for series) be read entirely on its own merit?  Should our standard be the same whether it’s a first time novelist or the most popular writer in the world?

But here’s another question: would I have read this book if it wasn’t by Rowling?  No — I bought this book without reading reviews or recommendations, just because it’s Rowling.  So I doubt there’s any way to forget that she wrote this book.

For the record, I didn’t plan on being a first-day reader.  But I woke up this morning, heard about it on the radio, went to my computer and bought it.  I didn’t even look at the price.  I knew I was going to read it, and I knew I was going to pay whatever they charged for it.  I also knew I wanted to read it before I heard too much about it (which I think I already have).
What about you?  Did you pre-order or line up for a copy?  Buy an e-book?  Are you waiting for the paperback?  (Or maybe you’re just not that interested).
Since I hope to avoid all spoilers, which seems nearly impossible given the media coverage, I promise that The Book Stop will reveal nothing.  But I will tell you where I come out on my Rowling-o-meter.  I don’t expect Harry Potter.  For now, having read just the first few chapters, I’m just happy to immerse myself in more of Rowling’s prose.  It’s a little like stepping back into a universe I love.

  2 comments for “The Casual Vacancy — can it live up to the hype?

  1. September 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    True.. i dont think she can follow up to the success of the HP series, but at least she continued writing.

  2. September 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I’m interested to read this one and I almost signed up for a readalong to do it, but in the end I decided to hold off until the hype dies down a bit. I do want to read it, but like you mentioned, I want to read it because it’s Rowling. I’m interested to hear what other bloggers think.

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