JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy garners 2 million preorders online

The Harry Potter author's adult novel is a guaranteed success - but will it be any good?

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JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy garners 2 million preorders online

Photo: Andrew Montgomery

She likes a good old mystery does Joanne Kathleen Rowling. Only the inner circle would have seen the contents of her bookshelves, but it’s safe to assume that a number of where, what and whodunits reside there. After all, she kept a Hogwarts-obsessed generation on its toes with the nerve-jangling tension which revolved around each Harry Potter publication (and getting them to stay up way past their bedtimes for those late-night store-openings): who would be bumped off this time? Would Voldemort get closer to Harry? Are Ron ‘n’ Hermione ever going to get it on?

Chances are some of those who read the first few books in the late 90s will have their minds just as exercised with questions upon the imminent release of The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown) as the Edinburgh-based author unleashes her first adult novel upon the public. Ahead of publication on 27 September, all we know is a basic synopsis: set in the idyllic English town of Pagford, fortysomething Barry Fairbrother suddenly dies, leaving a vacant seat on the parish council. As a keenly fought election ensues, the true relations between some townsfolk will soon be revealed over the course of 512 pages.

Given the anticipation, it was more hype than helpful for Rowling’s US publisher to compare her to Dickens (surely a statement about quantity rather than quality?). But no matter what any mean-spirited critic says, this book is guaranteed to shift shedloads: a mere two million copies had so far been pre-ordered a month before publication. The true test will come with what JK Rowling writes next: will The Casual Vacancy have stirred her readers into a wave of follow-up excitement or will public interest in her adult literary career be as dead as a Dumbledore?

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1. osofine16 Sep 2012, 11:35am Report

I just went to Amazon (U.S.) and I'm shocked by the price of J.K. Rowling's new book! It's listed at $20.90, marked down from the list price of $35. I loved the Harry Potter books, but as not one single review has yet to be published about this new novel I'm not going to bet $21 that it's not a dud. Don't she and her publishers have enough money yet? Yes, I understand that this might help Little, Brown & Company publish some other books by other authors that they might not otherwise, but it still smacks of greed and the publishers will always give preference to books that have mass appeal whether or not they have any literary merit. $35?! That means that any independent booksellers still in business (are there any?) are really going to be out of luck when they can't mark the book down the way Amazon does. The only other new hardcover novel I see listed on Amazon for more is Ken Follett's "Winter of the World", the second book of a trilogy, and people are in an uproar in the comments section over the $36 marked down to $21 price. I don't see any reviews for that yet, either, but as it is the second in a trilogy one assumes that the people who want to buy it in hardcover are people who have already enjoyed the first installment. The book is also 960 pages, compared with TCV's 512 pages - though I don't think printing costs are what is driving the price of books. By comparison, the other much anticipated books coming out this month by writers including Chabon, Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz and Dennis Lehane are all priced on Amazon under $17. 2 Million people have pre-paid $21 to $35 for a book that no one knows anything about, other than it was written by an author that had great success writing one series which followed the same formula repeatedly about the same characters, none of which will factor in this new book?! The mind reels. I hope it turns out to be a great book. I'll wait until it comes out before I place my order.

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