Posted: 27/09/2012 - Huff Post UK
The Guardian complained of the "slight anti-climax" created by the enormous secrecy surrounding the details of The Casual Vacancy in recent months, but go on to conclude that the novel is a "solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel" that may just have done alright without Rowling's name attached to it.
Meanwhile, The Independent detected some unexpected literary influences on the new, grown up Rowling, referring to "motifs that recall Irvine Welsh in his transgressive pomp jostl[ing] with the Aga-saga social intrigues of Joanna Trollope" and ultimately concludes that "Rowling's writing can be laborious in set-pieces but picks up magic with the adolescent characters."
Leave it up to the Daily Mail (who else?) to detect pernicious undertones in a novel about a local village election written by a woman made famous by wizards. Resident frenzy-whipper Jan Moir decided that The Casual Vacancy is nothing more than "500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature" in 1,300 words of relentless right-wing feather-spitting and comment-baiting masquerading as a review.
Over on The Times, meanwhile, an actual book critic Erica Wagner was more generous, declaring that Rowling's attempt to examine the state of British society aligned her with the best traditions of Charles Dickens. In a generally positive review she also states that "Rowling has a sharp eye for vivid details, and there are passages of very good writing in this book", but admits she found the plot a little slow.
The Metro were far less kind, deciding that Rowling attempt to write "an Important Book" ultimately fails. The reviewer found it "bland and insubstantial", as though "The Archers and EastEnders have got muddled up." Owch.
"After 15 years of invisibility cloaks, Rowling's craving for highly visible realism is understandable" states The Telegraph generously, but does wonder whether writing a book full of rape, self-harm and drugs was a responsible move for an author with legions of young fans. The review's chief concern is whether The Casual Vacancy ought to be shown to children, but when it focuses briefly on the merits of the book as a piece of literature finds it funny, if uneven.
Finally, leave it up to us at The Huffington Post to provide you with the most level-headed review. Our counterparts in America found The Casual Vacancy a "good, though not great, book about small-town, small-minded England." before asking sensibly "What else did you expect?"
So all-in-all a faintly positive response for JK Rowling, who can take some comfort in the fact that she wasn't savaged by the press, as was her fear.
The Casual Vacancy wasn't torn apart for its lack of literary value, nor was she banished from the world of adult fiction and ordered to get back to writing about magic where she belongs.
Instead, the accumulative response from Britain seems to be a slightly reluctant 6 out of ten - though of course, once her millions of fans have had their say, we can expect that to rise to a healthy eleven in 10, 9, 8...