J.K. ROWLING WRITES ‘CASUAL VACANCY’ FOR ADULTS
By Deirdre Donahue and Craig Wilson
Once upon a time, J.K. Rowling set children’s imaginations on fire. Can the creator of Harry Potter ignite a similar conflagration for a grown-up audience?
The British author will find out on Sept. 27, when more than 2 million hardcover copies of her first novel for adults hit U.S. bookstores, along with the digital edition. It will be simultaneously released in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
Set in the little English town of Pagford, The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown, $35) revolves around an election held after a member of the parish council unexpectedly dies. Despite the Miss Marple terrain, press materials describe the novel as “blackly comic … Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.”
“I expect the world to be ecstatic at the range of her imaginative reach,” predicts Rowling’s American publisher, Michael Pietsch. One of the few to have read the embargoed book, he calls Rowling “a genius, one of the great writers of all time.” Reading the 512-page novel, he says, “reminded me of Dickens because of the humanity, the humor, the social concerns, the intensely real characters.”
No wands, apparently: “This book isn’t Harry Potter,” says Pietsch. “It is a completely different concern.”
But the secrecy surrounding The Casual Vacancy isn’t. As with Harry Potter, there are no advance copies for the media, no early reviews. In the case of Harry Potter, this public-relations blackout only fed the frenzy. To date, the seven-book series about a boy wizard has sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, and it became one of the most successful movie franchises in history.