The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith Things you should know: 1) Ms Rowling filled my childhood and early teen years with magic. I love Harry Potter and I confess to only adding this book after I found out she was the author. 2) I did not go into this with the intention to compare it to Harry Potter. I did not expect magic or wizards and I fully anticipated this being very different to the HP books. 3) I have read and enjoyed many mystery/crime novels in the past. My favourites being by [a:Tana French|138825|Tana French|] and [a:Gillian Flynn|2383|Gillian Flynn|]. So, there was no reason why I couldn't have enjoyed this book simply because it wasn't magical Potterland. But I didn't and, after putting a lot of thought into this, I think I finally understand why.

Here's the sad truth: I can't stand Rowling's writing when she writes for adults. I actually find it painful to read. Let's be clear from the beginning, I started and never finished The Casual Vacancy because the opening didn't grab me and there was something about it - something which I couldn't put my finger on - that made it an effort to get through. A certain style to the writing which didn't agree with me. I thought perhaps it was a one-off because I'd read all her other works and never had a problem with her writing style. That's why I jumped at the chance to try another adult book by Rowling and sort out what was evidently a bout of silliness on my part. What this book did give me was an answer to why neither of Rowling's adult books worked for me.

Rowling writes in an unusual manner. It's not unique to her work for adults, Harry Potter has it too, but the effect had on both is very different. Rowling's style of writing, including the dialogue between characters, is formal to the point of being old-fashioned. Part of me wants to compare it to Austen but I'm cautious of doing so because of the amount of people (usually including myself) who might read that as a compliment. Rowling's formal style doesn't work, for me, when using it in an adult mystery and pairing it with profanity and grisly murders. It feels out of place and weighs down each page with tedious descriptions that use too many awkward similes, metaphors and adjectives.

"...face the colour of corned beef..."

"...the snow fell with soft fingertip plunks..."

"...long-snouted cameras..."

Her descriptions all felt a bit off to me. And I particularly didn't like the unsophisticated use of big words. It's like when inexperienced indie authors go crazy with, using clunky words like "exacerbated" and "exorbitant" in casual sentences that don't benefit from it. The characters in this book never check the time or look at their watches, they "consult" their watches. Think I'm being picky? Try reading whole pages where every sentence replaces the obvious words with complex ones and see how far you get without your brain starting to scream. And it felt like every single noun had at least one adjective before it. Not only that, but Rowling repeats similar adjectives when referring to the objects again. In one sentence, we are told she climbed the "steel stairs" and in the next she's continuing up the "metal stairs". WHY???? And also WHYYYYYY???

Another example of Rowling's old-fashioned style is her frequent use of expressions like "oh my!" and "goodness!", expressions I'm sure some of you will recognise from Harry Potter characters. What is this? It's like Mary Poppins or Little Women or, I don't know, Little House on the Prairie. And maybe it works fine in all of those, same as it works fine in Harry Potter, but none of those also had a side-helping of profanity and very adult themes. They do all, however, share the formal language style.


And while I think people were silly to say things about The Casual Vacancy like "ohmigod this had, like, noooooo magic and even fewer dark lords" when Rowling clearly said it was an adult mystery book and I wanted to say to those silly people:


I still think it's entirely relevant to compare the two when looking at Rowling's writing style and the reason why sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn't. The formal tone with simplistic language - like in Harry Potter - is okay, but dense descriptions and over-complicated sentences made it hard work and tedious in this book. It's like a very formal letter with the occasional random swear word thrown in. And it doesn't work. Not for me, anyway. The style simply doesn't fit the content; there's swearing and murders and people rescuing others by grabbing their breasts...


I'm not even going to talk about the story beyond saying I found it a standard mystery that could have been good if I'd not had these other reasons for not liking it. The killer is not hard to guess for anyone familiar with crime mysteries but that isn't usually what I care about most in crime mysteries anyway. Plus, in this case, I'm just too blinded by my dislike for the writing. *sigh* I think it's fair to say that I'm finally done trying to enjoy Rowling's adult books.


P.S. Yes, I did get a little overexcited when I googled Mary Poppins gifs.