Thursday, November 21, 2013

Post Harry Potter Part 2: The Cuckoo's Calling

JK Rowling and "Robert Galbraith"
This is the second post in a two part series on JK Rowling, post Harry Potter. Feel free to catch up on the first post on The Casual Vacancy here. This is a spoiler free post. 

If you haven't already heard, J.K. Rowling wrote The Cuckoo's Calling (a murder mystery surrounding the faked suicide of a millionaire model) in April 2013, under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Why did she do it with a pseudonym? Here's what she had to say:

"It's been wonderful to publish without any hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name." 

That makes a lot of sense to me. Since J.K. Rowling was so wildly successful and brilliant with Harry Potter, it's easy for people to assume that anything she writes will be gold. I think Rowling needed affirmation in her talent as a writer, and not just as the writer of HP. This little test was successful, I'd say, since she got glowing reviews. A few of them even mentioning that they found it hard to believe The Cuckoo's Calling was Robert Galbraith's first novel. I had to laugh at those observations.

What did I think of The Cuckoo's Calling (April 2013)?

Let's start with the main character, Cormoran Strike. I loved every bit of him. He felt real and fleshed out. There was no doubt in my mind that Strike had a life before the book began, which is the true test of a round character. 

Strike is ex-military, has a prosthetic leg, and a bit of an abrasive personality. Reading that description, it doesn't sound like a character I'd like fall in love with. However, Rowling -or should I say Galbraith- softens him by giving him an interesting romantic background and by making the reader sympathetic to his situation. Just like in Casual Vacancy, Rowling/Galbraith shows off her master skills in characterization. 

The other characters, like his secretary Robin and even the minor witnesses Strike interviews, are equally characterized and thought out, even if they don't get as much attention. 

As for the plot, I found it enjoyable, but I don't think Rowling/Galbraith made it quite as intricate as Casual Vacancy. That being said, I'm completely jaded when it comes to murder mysteries because I've read/watched so many of them and this is J.K. Rowling we're talking about, I had high expectations on intricacies. It was still well thought out and surprising, but the climax didn't seem as shocking as Casual Vacancy or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I'm probably not the best person to comment since I can be kind of thick when it comes to predicting stories, but I think she did a good job with misdirection (an essential part of mysteries). I totally thought that I had figured out the murder, but surprise surprise, I was wrong. 

Overall, I really fell in love with Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin. With those characters supported by a clever and well thought out plot, The Cuckoo's Calling was a success in my books (no pun intended, haha). I'd definitely say I enjoyed this book more than Rowling's first post-Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, because CC seemed more hopeful than CV, and it didn't carry the weight of all those social issues that Rowling tackled in her previous book. 

Content Advisory: 
Again, this was an adult book and the content mature. There was plenty of language (Rowling/Galbraith is a British author). However, I found The Cuckoo's Calling a lot tamer and less explicit then The Casual Vacancy

I really do believe that J.K. Rowling is still searching for her identity as a writer, post-Harry Potter. Nevertheless, she's turned out two excellently written books, and I will be keeping tabs on the rest of her writing career. What do you think of Rowling post-Potter? Want to read these books or stick to HP? Thoughts, comments, and ideas on this subject matter are welcome!

Reading: Why Mermaids Sing by C.S. Harris
Listening: Rusty Clanton
Watching: Republic of Doyle

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