Ben Keenan: Harry Potter and the Casual Vacancy

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The news that JK Rowling’s first novel for adults is to be published in September arrived at my bookshop this week with the subtlety of a rogue bludger through the window.

The women whom I regard as an absolute legend for encouraging millions of children to put down their video games and pick up a book instead, is about to be in the spotlight again for something other than Mr Potter.

The Casual Vacancy is Rowling’s first attempt at adult fiction and I know I’m far from alone when I say I’m excited by what the results will be, but at the same time, am a little disappointed that things will be completely different from her last book release. The 21st of July 2007 was one of the best days of my life. I’d consumed at least 11 double espressos, was dressed in vivid purple wizard’s robes which would have been roomy on Hagrid and couldn’t get my fake white beard to say on without tying it to my glasses, but that didn’t matter because outside Bury’s Buttermarket store were the exquisite sounds of over 1,000 people counting the minutes until midnight when the chance to read Harry’s final adventure would be theirs. The line outside the door stretched all the way to Cornhill Walk and as my colleagues and I (two witches, three wizards and a werewolf) handed out N.E.W.T-level quiz sheets and bookmarks, I thought to myself that I hope this kind of spectacular event becomes a regular one. But alas, nothing since Harry has been half as successful in the world of cross-generational mass appeal fiction.

Will The Casual Vacancy have the same effect on a society where most will wait for the paperback or simply download it? Will her millions of fans, many of whom are over 40, concern themselves with a world outside Hogwarts? Will I be opening at midnight, once again dressed as something plot appropriate and bouncing off of the walls with caffeine-induced excitement? We shall have to wait until September to find out!