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Book review: J. K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”

When the “Harry Potter” series came to an end five years ago with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, it would be an understatement to say that the world was interested to find out the next phase in J. K. Rowling’s writing career.

The publication of “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” in 2008 generated blockbuster sales, with initial sales estimates for the slim volume at $7.6 million. Her announcement in February of this year that her first post-Harry Potter novel would be for adults, and the subsequent announcement in April that the novel would be named “The Casual Vacancy”, was enough to garner headlines.

Within hours of its release last Sept. 27, “The Casual Vacancy” skyrocketed to the top spot on Amazon’s Book Chart in the United States, while the Irish Independent revealed that   first week sales of “The Casual Vacancy” was the second highest “since records began”, bowing only to Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol”.

But while the commercial success of “The Casual Vacancy” isn’t that surprising — it’s Rowling’s first book since “Harry Potter” — its critical reception is something that is less secure. Will “The Casual Vacancy” cast the same spell on readers as “Harry Potter” did? Or will Rowling end up like A. A. Milne, whose work after “Winnie the Pooh” was roundly panned by critics?

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