I had long awaited Rowling's latest book, and was prepared for the fact that it was both an adult novel and strictly non-fantasy. That didn't faze me in the least. I was looking forward to it very much none the less.
But I was not prepared to not like it. Because I don't. I really, really don't like it.
I didn't even manage to finish it, having to stop approximately 300 out of the 500-something pages in. Even though I didn't finish it, this review will contain spoilers. There will be no specific plot points revealed, but I talk at length about what the book includes in its narrative, so read on at own risk.
I very rarly do not finish books. Books I never finish sticks in my mind, and I hate it. This, in other words, speaks loudly of how much I disliked the book.
And it is not necessarily because it is bad. Rowling knows how to write - she writes very well. I did have trouble following who was who, but that's because the character gallery is HUGE, with equal time focussed on every main character. Some of the characters were also bland enough that I had trouble keeping them apart from each other. It was easier after a while, though, so not too much of a criticism.
The book is also very detailed, have lots of really good descriptions, and is for the most part a very believable protrait of certain human characteristics.
However, Rowling has chosen to write solely about the depressing facets of human experience. Depravation; anger; violence; sadness; corruption; abuse both physical, mental and sexual; marital strife; childhood traumas etc etc.
The list of depressing shit goes ON AND ON. It doesn't let up in the least. I was on the verge of stopping after the first tiny description of incest, but read on, hoping it would also be the last. But then a second scene was leading up to rape, and even if I skipped ahead (from what I could see it lasted quite a few pages, which means it must have been very detailed) I just couldn't go on reading. I do not handle depiction of sexual abuse very well, and since the life of the inhabitants of the village of Pagford is so endlessly horrid and depressing on top of it, I just couldn't finish. I knew there would be no ray of sunshine at the end, there would be no redeeming factors, there would be no happy turning points.
I read a few reviews that mention how the book ends before I properly decided to not finish it, and they simply cemented what I already suspected. Shit stays shit in the book.
Every single couple fights and argues and detests each other in this book. Almost every character is either pathetic, revolting, spiteful or a combination of all three. Everyone is more or less depressed in their own special or unspecial way. There is way too much cursing and focus on (not very nice) sexual matters. Stupidity and lack of courage abounds in a world so horridly dystopian that it made me literally nauseous.
The book makes out to be very realistic. Maybe it is. Maybe small towns around the world really are like the Pagford in the book. If that's the case, I will never ever move to one. But I can't shake the feeling that NO town is THIS depressing and depraved. It seems Rowling is trying to make a point about how everyone, no matter how they seem on the surface, is depraved deep down - I don't buy it. Not to this extent. I know lots of happy couples (I'm in one myself for goodness sakes!), I know lots of people who aren't depressed, I know people who has never known any sort of abuse, neither from their schoolmates nor anyone else.
If the book had included a couple of happy characters inbetween all the gloom I might have read on. If the book had included the promise of a better future for its most sad and pitiful characters, I might have read on. It did not. So I will not finish it.
I am disappointed, in a way. But Rowling is a good author, and while the HP-series fit my reading preferences perfectly, this did not. That's just too bad for me, she is after all free to write whatever she wants to write. Lots of people will love this book, I'm sure of it.
And I am still looking forward to seeing what she'll write in the future.