A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Posts tagged ‘J K Rowling’

The Story, Not the Teller


Book Cover - Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

An AHA! moment came with the completion of this book. None of the Cormoran Strike novels are described as Thriller/Crime/Mystery on the covers. They are simply “A CB Strike Novel, or a “Cormoran Strike Novel”. So all past rumblings of “Who wants to know so much about the private lives of the detectives”? are now laid to rest.

The feeling of frustration at losing the thread of the mystery due to so much digression into the parallel and often not intertwining lives of Cormoran and Robin remains, though. Especially as a large chunk of the 942 pages of “Troubled Blood” is about the illness and subsequent death of Cormoran’s Aunt Joan. A smaller chunk would have sufficed. A little less Cornish politics, fewer pages on the floods in Cornwall, circa February 2014, and a bit more about the palliative nurse who looked after Joan would have made the realisation that Cormoran comes to, as he winds up the case, seem more thoughtful. Then there is the ever present Charlotte, often in absentia, whose shenanigans in this novel do not relate in any way to its resolution. Is anyone interested in her?

The mystery, which can be seen as the main plot, is intriguing, gripping, and told well. This, in spite of the plethora of characters with divergent histories, and all encompassing lies.  Trying to play detective became tedious. It was more enjoyable to just keep up with the characters and allow the mystery to resolve. Going with the flow has never been more helpful.

The Author’s superb word sketches of people brought them to life in a way reminiscent of the original Harry Potter books. Meticulous research created a clear picture of London in 1974-75 London. The walk that Cormoran and Robin take to try and recreate the doctors last known minutes was a spellbinding few pages. Many such incidents occur in the story, and make the book hard to put down. Not since the Harry Potter novels, has this Author commanded such attention.

There were a few instances where the famous maxim of “show, don’t tell” slipped, and, in an Author of such repute and experience, unexpected.

To address the ever boiling issue of transphobia in this novel – there is a character who is referenced throughout the novel, and appears in one scene, who occasionally dressed up as a women for nefarious purposes. This person is not Transgender, or even an habitual cross dresser. Nor did he always dress up as a woman when he kidnapped women. His behaviour in the one scene he appears makes the skin crawl, and it is not because he has dressed up as a woman in order to abduct women in the past. While the Author may be transphobic, the book did not read as such.

The Author has a pattern of airing her political views via her books, which can irritate. The Cornish wish for, and the Scottish bid for Independence get too much air time in this one, specially since neither of them actually have any relevance to the story.

In as much as the Author’s anti feministic views goes, the family of the good doctor would never have had an abortion, specially after having a child of her own. The doctor, having been missing for close on 40 years, does not get a say, so her views are not expressed. It would seem, though, that her behaviour in helping  a patient to have a safe abortion, and the supportive care afterwards,  tells a story of its own.

With reference to the Slut Walk – and Cormoran’s view that such a walk would not reduce crime, or change attitudes, may deserve an airing. Both Cormoran and Robin, and specially Robin, have provided ample evidence through five novels that they neither of them think that the victim of rape, or violence, “deserves it”.

The 5 star rating is because this was a book that was hard to put down, right from the get go. The resolution was surprising, and in this cynical day, this last is hard to do.

Footnote: Another story in which Astrology coincidentally almost gets it right. It would have been funny, if it had not been explained away by an overactive (or was it under active?) thyroid.


JKR, Notebooks and Cafes

And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss. ~ J. K. Rowling

I admit it. This idea is bliss for me as well. One day, I did do it. I went to a café, ordered a cup of green tea, and wrote. Wrote, and wrote. What I wrote, is still unpublished and unshared. But I wrote so much in those 90 minutes that I was there than I would at home, with the MacBook Air close by, and my phone, the kitchen, the fridge, the full moon rising higher in the sky.

That evening as I waited for a friend who did not turn up, and wrote, I was completely immersed n my story. I was almost glad, in a way that my friend had forgotten about the meet up, and whatever betrayal I felt, was masked by the afterglow of .. what was it…, about 20 pages of scribbled writing.

I was able to shut myself out from the other customers in the café in a manner I would not have been able to, from the children, had I been writing at home. The more I wrote, the further away their chatter receded, and soon I felt like I was in a bubble of light, with the only things that the light fell on were the pen and the notebook, and even I had receded to a place where my thoughts, ideas and pen were a team of their own, distanced from the rest of me.

The other thing I noticed about that experience was that the use of pen and notebook, and leaning over a table, to write was completely different to typing on a computer. One was not necessarily faster or slower than the other, but the age old method of writing with a pen seemed more connected to me, somehow. I have since then (and also because my darling heart JKR does so), written more and more by hand, rather than typing it up on the computer at first go. To me the two are very different, and I think I prefer the old fashioned way. I wonder if the computer bred generations were asked to compare their involvement when using either a notebook and pen, or a computer to write, would feel any kind of affinity to the former? Is it my childhood practise that is influencing my observation? Or, is it as some say, the muscles we use to handwrite connects in a more intimate way to our brain, and ultimately our selves?

For my posts online, I have often written by hand and then edited my work as I have typed them up, and I feel that that has led to a more polished final result. Typing up what has been hand written seems to keep the creative juices flowing in a way, proof reading and editing does not.

Whatever may be the reason behind it, I am keen to try the café experience again. Only, I feel it is a bit pretentious, so even when I have wanted to, I have hung back. I am no J K Rowling after all. But…… maybe I should anyway?
JK-Rowling-in-1998image credit: http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/the-5-craziest-myths-about-jk-rowling/

Reading “The Casual Vacancy”

Two Positive reviews. Sort of.



And a negative one:  Sort of.

Caution: All of the above reviews, especially the last, contain some Spoilers. So please peruse only if you feel Spoilers will not affect your reading of The Casual Vacancy. Also, if you do, Parminder is not Pakistani. She is Sikh, of Indian descent.

By now, anyone who is interested in Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Modern Literature, anything under the Sun, knows that The Casual Vacancy, or TCV as it is lovingly called, is a novel written for adults, and not really “as good as” Harry Potter. Of course, there are those who would not be seen dead with a Harry Potter book, but even they know that TCV is not really that good (See multiple reviews on multiple websites, if you want, after the ones above). So, while they were too adult to read a “book about magic” they are too literary minded to read TCV. Yes, I know, the Harry Potter books were not really about magic. But, in spite of all of that TCV has been sold a few million times over. Not too bad.

This article is also not a review. It is a reading moment. My reading moment. If you want to really know TCV, read it. Do. The only opinion that matters to you, is yours.

I finished the book in two sittings. On Saturday I read through the afternoon, and made myself put it down at night. I read again next day, from mid morning to mid afternoon. All 503 pages of it.  That in itself, is telling. It is a book that is easy to keep reading.

Contrary to advertisement, I teared up only once, at the end of the first third of the book, and never again. I did not cry at the end, I believe people have been crying then. But I was gripped with strong emotions throughout. I was not expecting to fall in love with any of the characters, as I had already been warned by the Jennifer Byrne interview with JKR. But I did not expect them to be quite so disgusting. Or most of them. Or at least most of the adults.

TCV is a look into the lives of some of the most unlikeable characters in a small English town, and one is left wondering how come they are all concentrated there. The people we meet daily are all a mix of loveable and  not so loveable characteristics. And most of them seem to have something that redeems them. We can find something about each person that we can take note of and say, “See? There, they are not so bad after all”.

But JKR does not allow us that luxury; taking us to peek into each person’s minds she tells us that all is not well, anywhere. Then, there are the adolescents. Each with their own private hell, and each struggling to get the better of it.

I will not go into a dissection of the only character people have bonded to, in the book – Krystal Weedon. JKR mentioned that she was the best character/person, and that, in a way, this story is about her. I can see why she said so, and why people end up loving her. I was not even allowed that luxury, in my mind. Even Krystal with her courage, and her mindfulness and her love failed to make me love her. But I will write about that later.

I liked this book so much that I will read it again. When I am not feeling so raw inside about it. Now that I know what happens, I will pick each sentence apart, and dig into the whys. I will pace myself out, and think about it as I go along. I am sure, I will discover many new things. There, in my mind, lies the excellence of “The Casual Vacancy”. It is a book you can read again.


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