I’ve literally just remembered that J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is out today, so I gave it a quick Google to check the Kindle price. On the first page is a review by Guardian writer Allison Pearson. I shan’t link to it. Here is why.
I’ll get straight to the point. There was always going to be a bunch of parallels whipped out between TCV and the HP books. This is primarily because people are idiots who can’t seem to fathom how one writer can write different genres. Pearson’s review is absolutely strewn with weak Potter jests. The review gets off to a limp start when she states, “my tongue had been silenced after a powerful spell cast by lawyers”. Har de har har, do you see what she did there? I hope you did. It sets the tone for a thoroughly churlish, silly piece.
My favourite (read: least favourite and most infuriating) example comes when the review is still tenderly blossoming. Pearson quotes a graphic passage, and, instead of engaging with the emotions it provokes and its merit by itself, she chooses to write her disbelief that such filth could come “from the pen that brought you The Leaky Cauldron”. Another notable contender is when Pearson calls the readership and cast of characters “we Muggles”. Yep, she went and actually did that. There are no words (and certainly not for Pearson, who borrows Rowling’s with liberty).
J. K. Rowling reads from a Harry Potter book. Note how it is not The Casual Vacancy. I thought I might have to point that out to some.
The entire piece should, if nothing else, remind you that reviews are opinion and not cast in gold and gems. I would quite like to be a book reviewer; my apparent distaste for them in this case, you understand, is not distaste at all, but discernment. For now, I’m settling with reviewing this review. It is unfortunate that someone being paid to review for a national publication should backslide into cheap shots. What is most dumbfounding is Pearson’s concern that young Potter fans might read the book. She mentions that a New Yorker interview dealt with the same thing. The answer to that particular “problem” is so glaringly obvious that it doesn’t bear mentioning.
I don’t think Rowling is a fabulously strong writer; I think she’s a very good storyteller. I haven’t read TCV, and I don’t know if I will. It’s not my type of book. I had hoped, though, that adults with the power to influence others, and paid for their writing skills, might be intelligent enough to review the book in its own right. Instead, what I have seen is a snide playground-level stoning of Rowling. I’m disappointed in my peers.