Stop sending that email, ordering that pair of Warby Parkers, or wrangling that hippogriff: J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy hits the shelves today—and your Kindle tomorrow—and at 512 pages, it should keep you busy for the next five days or so (three if you don’t shower). Rowling’s new novel for adults, her first published work since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has been highly anticipated by both die-hard Potter fans and critics alike.
In this much-buzzed about profile in The New Yorker, the usually reticent Rowling is uncharacteristically forthcoming about everything from her difficult relationship with her father, to Harry’s mental health, to her vulnerability in publishing her first book not aimed at the under-13 set. A Potter addict myself, I hung on to every word—but if you’re strapped for time, here are five takeaways from the article that’ll get you reading-ready.
1. The Casual Vacancy is an ensemble piece: The book is about a local election in a made-up town called Pagford, and it centers on several families and their often-troubled teenage children. Not surprisingly, Rowling drew a detailed map of this fictional English town, in true Potter fashion (since she’s all detail-oriented like that).
2. It’s not your Hufflepuff’s novel: This book really, really isn’t for kids. It deals with everything from drug addiction to rape and includes lines like “that miraculously unguarded vagina.” Enough said.
3. It’s gritty, raw, and sugarcoats nothing: “I had a lot of real-world material in me, believe you me,” Rowling explained. The Potter series was straight-up fantasy; this book is (as Rowling herself categorizes it) a “comic tragedy.” Don’t expect apparating and owls, or you’ll be sorely disappointed.
4. Its “main character” is a grown-up Harry Potter: Councilman Barry Fairbrother dies early on in the book, but he’s still the “moral center” of the piece—just as Harry was the moral center of the Potter series. The book is about “mortality and morality, the two things I obsess about,” says Rowling.
5. It’s really f***ing brave: Okay, that one’s not in the article. And I should probably wait until I’ve actually read the book before going out on such a limb. But let’s face it—Rowling could have lived happily ever on a cloud of Butterbeer, but instead, she chose to put herself out there again, would-be critics be damned. Seems like something Dumbledore would have done.