Rowling's adults-only novel hits PH stores

Posted at 09/27/12 4:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines joined the rest of the world in welcoming the latest book of best-selling author J. K. Rowling after her phenomenal Harry Potter series.

Local bookstore chain National Bookstore is set to launch Rowling's “The Casual Vacancy” today, September 27, at 5 p.m. at its Glorietta 5 branch in Makati. Rival Fully Booked, meanwhile, released photos of the book on its Facebook account.

Several netizens also took to social media to show off their copy of Rowling's book.

Manila Bulletin editor Ivy Lisa Mendoza shows her copy of J. K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" which debuts around the world on Thursday. Photo from Mendoza's Facebook page

On the author's website, details about the book's plot is scant, except to say that it is set in the little English town of Pagford, which is left in shock after a member of the parish council Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly.

"Seemingly an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war," it said.

"Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

"And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?"

Pre-sales in the UK, Rowling’s home country, have reportedly topped 1 million copies, while pre-orders have also been brisk in online sellers like Amazon.com.

But early reviews of the new book, Rowling’s first novel that’s targeted at adult readers, have been lukewarm at best.

The New York Times was surprised that Rowling has gone “from Potter to potty-mouth. She shows herself proficient at tossing out the F-word.”

“‘The Casual Vacancy,’ which one bookseller breathlessly predicted would be the biggest novel of the year, isn’t dreadful. It’s just dull. Rowling’s strength was never her prose. It was her ability to create unforgettable characters and weave stories that held us captive. The magic simply isn’t there,” the Times said.

The website Huffington Post was more forgiving, describing it as “a generally well-written book whose central theme is responsibility for those less fortunate, all the time imbued with ever-present British themes of class and notions of propriety.”

“Rowling is clearly a skilled writer. This book is more depressing than her previous work because it is set a real world without magic, and where cruelty is less apocalyptic and more believably petty. Though some sequences feel a few drafts short of being ready, others are written with a fluency and beauty that suggest that there could be more and better works to come from her pen,” the website said.

Giving the book a rating of three stars, The Telegraph UK calls it “uneven, often harrowing.”

“JK Rowling’s first adult novel, is sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed, and full of cruelty and despair. One teenager cuts herself to relieve her misery, another commits suicide. Online pornography is described in gynaecological detail,” the UK newspaper said.

Another UK newspaper, The Guardian, was also not swept away by the hype.

“‘The Casual Vacancy’ is no masterpiece, but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny,” the British paper said.

“The fanbase may find it a bit sour, as it lacks the Harry Potter books' warmth and charm; all the characters are fairly horrible or suicidally miserable or dead. But the worst you could say about it, really, is that it doesn't deserve the media frenzy surrounding it."