Rowling swaps magic classes for middle-class vices

I've always liked the sound of the Harry Potter author – she espouses the cause of social justice, and is prepared to walk the walk

Share

Many bookshops will be opening early tomorrow to cope with the demand for what, in the way of these things, has been called the publishing event of the year. The queues are unlikely to be on the scale of those for the latest iPhone (get a life, people!), or even the last Harry Potter, but a new work of fiction by J K Rowling will be enough to mobilise book buyers in great numbers.

The pre-release hype has probably made sure of that: this is Ms Rowling's first piece of adult fiction, and the publishers have kept copies of The Casual Vacancy under lock and key, allowing reviewers to read the book only under supervision and then after signing a strict non-disclosure agreement. The normally reclusive Ms Rowling has subjected herself to some hand-picked interviews in Britain and America, while a stage appearance in London tomorrow will be streamed live on the internet.

What we know is this: the book is set in a small English village, and is a satire on local politics, class and modern manners. What we don't know is whether it's any good or not. And I'm afraid I can't give you a clue. Not because I've been sworn to secrecy, but because I simply don't know how good Ms Rowling is at writing.

She's sold 450 million copies of her Harry Potter series, but not having an interest in magical realism, nor indeed being a child, I've not read a single one of them. I've never found this to be a shortfall in my cultural experience, but then again, I'm the man who really hasn't seen Star Wars or even an episode of EastEnders. I am, however, keenly anticipating this offering.

I've always liked the sound of Ms Rowling – she espouses the cause of social justice, and is prepared to walk the walk by paying her full whack of taxes, and using her multi-millions to philanthropic effect. And she seems to have tapped into the zeitgest with this novel. In fact and fiction, the subject of class is – and probably always has been – one of the topics du jour, whether we're being revolted by the public schoolboy Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell calling policemen "plebs" (I wasn't aware people still used a word I last heard in the playground) or charmed by the aristos of Downton Abbey, who thought everyone else was a pleb but were too well-mannered to say so.

The plot of The Casual Vacancy is centred on a local election, and portrays the snobbery and pretensions of residents of the fictional village of Pagford. Before the book has been released, however, Ms Rowling has got into trouble. In interviews, she said she borrowed heavily from her own experience for the novel's narrative, and has pointed to her unhappiness growing up in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill.

Even though, obviously, they haven't read the book, inhabitants of Tutshill have worked themselves up into a lather in case anyone should identify their community as a repository of such middle-class vices. Ms Rowling must be very upset. The last thing she needs at this time is any more publicity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

 

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine