Potter overshadows Rowling’s new book

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KATE KENNEDY
STAFF WRITER

On the night of its release, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was purchased by 8.2 million avid fans who were willing to stay up until midnight at the local bookstore to read about their beloved childhood hero vanquishing his mortal, or not so mortal, enemy. In the first week alone, 169.2 million copies were sold.

Between September 27 and October 1, the first week that Rowling’s newest book since Harry Potter was released, 124,000 read about death, rape, drugs, sex, suicide and bullying in The Casual Vacancy.
Between the two subject matters, which seems more appealing? To me, and the rest of the world it seems, the answer is easy. I would rather be pulled into the enchanting world of Hogwarts and Honeydukes, firewhiskey and butterbeer, even dementors and Voldemort, than struggle through 503 pages of the dismal and dark, fictional English suburban town of Pagford. After dipping my toes in the dark and dreary water that was The Casual Vacancy, I couldn’t bear to read past chapter three in the six-chapter preview on Amazon. The appeal and, all puns aside, magic, that colored every page of Harry Potter simply wasn’t there. Instead we were left with a cast of Dursley-like muggles. By page five, one of the only moral characters whom we’d been introduced to had already dropped dead as the result of a sudden heart attack.

It isn’t just the magic that makes Harry Potter so magical. The vivacious characters, imaginative plot, and battle of good versus evil keep the readers engaged. As a first grader, I was hooked after reading the first paragraph of chapter one, and wasn’t any less dedicated until the very end when, as an 11-year-old, I finally discovered the fate of the miraculous boy who lived. To this day, on a long car ride or rainy afternoon I sometimes still pull out any of the seven books to be enthralled by the whimsical world of Hogwarts. Intricately planned out and perfectly executed, the story unfolds over seven captivating books, ending with an ultimately uplifting climax as Harry vanquishes his long time foe, Voldemort. The series is without loopholes and is perfectly tied up with a satisfying ending. For older teenagers of this generation, Harry Potter grew up as they grew up, defining a generation, “It was a big part of my childhood,” said Colin Sears (’14). “It was the first proper series I read and really enjoyed.”

I think it’s safe to say that coming out of one of the most successful fictional series ever written, Rowling had a lot to live up to. The Casual Vacancy didn’t measure up. Beginning with the sudden death of a parish council member, the the book deals with Howard Mollison, the story’s protagonist, trying to assert his power in the new “casual vacancy.”

Mollison, cruel and self-interested, is presented as the main evil force in the book. However, he is not alone. Rowling employs a whole cast of nefarious characters committing execrable acts. The story is rife with unutterable words, casual sex and self-harm. Ultimately, these characters are not redeemed; the book’s climax concludes with a dead child and another drowned child.

Since its release, the book has seen a wide variety of reviews, from adoration to the belief that, had it not been for Rowling’s name, it would not have been published at all. However, most reviews agree on one thing: The Casual Vacancy is a good book, but nothing special. Although grim, it does unearth some truths of the human condition, and it is surprisingly humorous, but it’s the kind of novel that’s been seen before and will be seen again. I’m not planning on opening the book back up, and it’s not because I’m arguing that books that don’t have wizards and where good doesn’t conquer evil don’t have merit, or that J.K. Rowling should stick to kids stories and doesn’t have the right to write whatever she is compelled to. Simply, I just don’t want to spend my time struggling through a depressing book that’s nothing new.