“It’s the books that you read when you’re young that live with you forever.”
– J.K. Rowling
It is funny that the quote above by JK Rowling sums up exactly how I feel about her as an author. She is a literary genius – I adore the way she writes and the way she tells her stories. Harry Potter has been the single most influential series of my childhood and into my adult life. I don’t remember anything else having such an impact the way that series has.
There isn’t one particular thing that I can put my finger on that describes the way I feel about the Harry Potter series. Perhaps it is the way JK has so eloquently described the purest friendships, the greatest loves, acts of bravery and courage and the hair-raising adventures that occur so frequently. Or maybe is it the way she shines the light on our darkest fears, our insecurities and our pain. Her care and sympathy for the under-dog is rather endearing too.
There are so many profound moments in the seven books where you just have to stop and take a moment. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking; there have been so many nights of sitting up in bed in the wee hours of the morning sobbing uncontrollably or shaking with excitement or anger so badly that it was impossible to hold onto the book. Being immersed in the world of Harry Potter is such a roller coaster of emotions that even now, every time I re-read one of the books I have the same overwhelming rush of emotion. It is a place of pure joy. There is nothing else to it!
I was so excited when I heard that JK had a new book coming out, a grown up novel. There was so much discussion about this one; how could the author of Harry Potter possibly write anything else? The pressure on her must have been immense. I was working in the bookstore at the time it was released; it was a Thursday evening and the boxes were not to be opened until 5pm. I grabbed the first book out and bought it immediately. Later that night I started it with great anticipation… And oh boy, we were not in Hogwarts anymore. The Casual Vacancy is set in a small fictitious town called Pagford, a vile place filled with abusive and narrow-minded people. It was a complete shock to the system; gone were the tales of bravery and adventure and instead they were replaced with the caged horrors of a small town and all that it entails (I am not, of course, suggesting that all small towns are like this) and the struggles of a lower class society. It took me a long time after finishing it to decide how I felt about the story The Casual Vacancy told. There were many times when I felt uncomfortable with the content I was reading but at the end of the day, I applaud JK for stepping outside of a well-worn comfort zone and trying something new. The Casual Vacancy is certainly not for everyone.
The next surprise came when we found out JK had sneakily used a nom de plume to publish another book! There was suddenly a worldwide scramble for everyone to get his or her hands on this book. It was the familiarity in her writing that eventually gave her away; her commentary on journalism, the paparazzi and the pressures of celebrity life feature in all of her books. It was also noted by several critics that the ‘debut’ work had an unusual confidence and professionalism about it. The Cuckoo’s Calling is the beginning of a crime series, returning to the era of detectives like Poirot, Marple and Holmes instead of the usual cop-showesque feel. For someone who seems to enjoy a high body count, JK seems to have chosen a genre she is well suited too. Having just finished The Silkworm, I am even more certain that she is enjoying writing crime as much as I enjoy reading it.
JK Rowling is a formidable storyteller who could, and I imagine will, tackle anything she sets her mind too. I cannot wait for what comes next.