When J. K. Rowling was charging through all those barriers of adolescent ignorance and prejudice against the written word, I, too, read the first three Potter books. I enjoyed them immensely. But before the fourth one came out, I got sidetracked and never returned to the series—a fact that I regret, but not enough to reread the first three in order to bring me up to snuff for the others.
However, I still marvel at her ability to get preteens and teens all over the world to put down their video games and read a book. A real BOOK. Books. Books of several hundred pages, yet!
Earlier this month I read what someone told me was her first adult novel, A Casual Vacancy. (Digression: The Potter books seemed aimed at young people though their appeal was ageless.) ACV is, like the Potter books, lengthy—over 600 pages. I thought it could have been shorter—by maybe 200 pages. Still, it was readable. In chapter one a heart attacks fells a well-liked member of a small English town. His death leaves a vacancy on the town council. There is no great mystery or trauma as we see the effects of a rather ordinary event on the lives of various individuals.
Rowling does manage to keep us intrigued through those 600-plus pages–this is, after all, the writer who pried all those kids’ fingers from their video games. She explores family dynamics, small town politics, petty grievances, prejudices, dreams deferred and dreams destroyed. Yet she shows how the human spirit trudges on and even triumphs sometimes in spite of events and circumstances.
Was the book entertaining? Well, yes. But more in the way of something by Willa Cather, rather than Nora Ephron.
I liked it.
(But I still think A Casual Vacancy could have been 200 pages shorter. . . .)