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A moral compass at the centre of J.K. Rowling's Ink Black Heart

  • 07 September 2022
The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith, a nom de plume of J.K. Rowling. Published by Sphere 2022   So far it hasn’t been easy to find a review in Australia from someone who has actually read the sixth and latest book in Rowling/Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike crime series, The Ink Black Heart. The Age’s review referred to other critics’ opinions on it, saying that the reviewer hadn’t read ‘these passages’; the rest of the piece was a criticism of Rowling’s support for women’s rights in the face of erasure and violence. It seems that other critics, notably the UK Telegraph’s Jake Kerridge, have objected to the length of the book, while also complaining that some of the storyline is too close to things that have happened to the author in her own life, that it doesn’t have ‘enough depth’ and doesn’t cover enough ‘emotional territory’. He writes that he preferred the earlier, shorter ‘pacier’ books and is entitled to his opinion, but our experiences when reading it have obviously been very different.

l wonder if it is too much to ask for people to simply read books (any books) before holding opinions about them. Sometimes, of course, you don’t have to finish reading a book that is giving you none of the pleasures that good reading should give; (but then maybe leave the task of reviewing it to others). And these rushed days it’s often hard to settle down into the sheer childlike joy of reading. I remember that delight of reading in bed as a child, turning pages avidly to see what happened to the Famous Five, or Anne Shirley, or Tom Sawyer; devouring Tolkien and C.S Lewis and any of the myriad books that filled the house, the library, the school. And of course there were Wodehouse and Thurber and comics and … look, we read in those days for sheer love and rightful escape from humdrum and problems. We didn’t read to be improved.

Why do critics these days want everything to be ‘pacey’? Does reading now have to be on the clock? Novel-writing courses tell aspiring writers to prune away adjectives and adverbs, to show rather than tell, and to keep to one character’s point of view.  Rowling bulldozes gloriously through all these strictures and succeeds in delighting millions. Such rules reveal more about how critics are now formed in their opinions than giving any insight into how real writers