Of course, no sooner had I finished my previous blog than I googled “Rowling” and “Dickens” and established, conclusively, that there is no such thing as a new idea. In fact, the association between JKR and CD was established long before this novel, in, for example, interviews and comments by JKR herself. And there is the answer to the Christmas ghosts reference. Simply put, the reference to Dickens is there because JKR wants us to approach her dark novel of life in 21st century England in the same way we think of Dickens’ social commentary in his novels. Dickens did not have any simple solutions for the situations he found his characters in – neither does Rowling.
Drawing a link between yourself and one of the greatest English novelists is a bold step, and Rowling has a long way to go in terms of building her canon before any such parallels are justified – to be honest they are a bit ridiculous at this point in her literary career. You can’t argue with the impact of Potter, but however much it crossed over into adult readership, and however much it addresses serious themes, it remained a work of children’s literature. You have to admire her chutzpah though, and if you are going to adopt a role model you could do much worse than Dickens. Of course I am not suggesting Rowling is equating her work with CD, simply saying that she would like her novel to be thought of in the same way ie as serious social commentary.
Having said there is no such thing as a new idea, so far I have not found anyone online pointing out the echoes of Christmas Carol with this novel, so I am feeling a bit smug as of now.
One other thought about this novel – Rowling seems to experience a visceral disgust with fat people, men in particular. She attracted some flak in the Potter novels with this tendency, and built in positive overweight figures later on in the series to balance the impression given by the Dursleys and others. Here fat is strongly associated with nastiness, laziness, and corruption, and is described with a distaste bordering on disgust. A sympathetic character equates obesity with drug abuse, and while Character A says X therefore the author thinks X is obviously too simplistic for words, the insistence of her returning time after time to the observation that the fat middle class men in this book are unattractive and unpleasant really leaves an unavoidable impression that she equates obesity with moral weakness. Fat teenagers are one thing – fat middle aged people are just bad.
Last comment on this edition – what a bad, lazy cover!