Rowling hopes novel will add to our sense of responsibility


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The Independent Online

JK Rowling has revealed that her soon-to-be-released book was originally called Responsible and explores society's obligations to the poor, in the latest indication that her first adult novel has political undertones.

Ms Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel as a single mother on welfare and has criticised the Government for reducing benefits to single parents.

The Labour donor – who gave £1m to the party in 2008 – generally steered clear of political themes in her Potter series. However, in an interview with The New Yorker ahead of the release of The Casual Vacancy on Thursday, she indicated that the novel reflected her concern for social justice. "In my head, the working title for a long time was 'Responsible,' because for me this is a book about responsibility," the 47-year-old author said.

That did not just refer to "how responsible we are for our own personal happiness and where we find ourselves in life, but for the macro sense also: how responsible we are for the poor, the disadvantaged, other people's misery," she added.

The eventual name came from a handbook for local administrators, Rowling explained. A casual vacancy refers to a seat becoming vacant following death or scandal. Rowling, who has previously said she is "indebted to the welfare state", started writing The Casual Vacancy before the general election but believes the book has become more relevant since the coalition government took power.

The novel will tackle some distinctly adult themes in what Rowling has described as a "comic tragedy" and explores the closed society of the fictional small town of Pagford.