Thursday, September 20, 2018

J.K.Rowling Strikes Again

I finished reading the latest Cormoran Strike detective tale by Robert Galbraith yesterday. Galbraith, as most people know, is the alter ego of J.K.Rowling, who wanted to start over by using a pseudonym after Harry Potter. She has now published four novels in this series, and I've quite enjoyed them. Dozens of reviews will no doubt be added to those that had already been written before publication, so I'm just going to explore a few things that I really enjoyed in the book.

Lethal White: published last Tuesday.
I love Rowling's sharp eye for detail, for irony, for human weaknesses, and her awareness of how class privilege can create terrible human beings. I love her ear for speech variations, for music (at least in this book where she offers thoughts on listening to pieces as diverse as a Brahms symphony and "Black Trombone" by Serge Gainsbourg), and especially for very odd and wonderfully chosen names of people and places.

Pratt's gentleman's club? Surely, I thought, she made up this wonderful name. No she did not! It's real, and in the acknowledgements, Rowling acknowledges who took her there. However, when Cormoran Strike, in a phone conversation, is invited to meet a client there, his trusty partner Robin says roughly the same thing:
He hung up and returned to the office where Robin was opening and sorting mail. When he told her the upshot of the conversation, she Googled Pratt’s for him.
“I didn’t think places like this still existed,” she said in disbelief, after a minute’s reading off the monitor.  
“Places like what?”  
“It’s a gentleman’s club… very Tory… no women allowed, except as guests of club members at lunchtime… and ‘to avoid confusion,’” Robin read from the Wikipedia page, “‘all male staff members are called George.’”  
“What if they hire a woman?” 
“Apparently they did in the eighties,” said Robin, her expression midway between amusement and disapproval. “They called her Georgina.” (Kindle Locations 1465-1471). 
When he gets to Pratt's (which I Googled too!) he's shown to a dining room by a motherly woman. Through a pass-through he can see a chef carving cold roast beef, and around him:
Here was the very antithesis of the smart restaurants where Strike tailed errant husbands and wives, where the lighting was chosen to complement glass and granite, and sharp-tongued restaurant critics sat like stylish vultures on uncomfortable modern chairs. Pratt’s was dimly lit. Brass picture lights dotted walls papered in dark red, which was largely obscured by stuffed fish in glass cases, hunting prints and political cartoons. In a blue and white tiled niche along one side of the room sat an ancient iron stove. The china plates, the threadbare carpet, the table bearing its homely load of ketchup and mustard all contributed to an ambience of cozy informality, as though a bunch of aristocratic boys had dragged all the things they liked about the grown-up world— its games, its drink and its trophies— down into the basement where Nanny would dole out smiles, comfort and praise." (Kindle Locations 1519-1525). 
His client, Chiswell, a cabinet minister, arrives, a bit late of course:
Once they were seated at the table, which had a stiff, snowy-white tablecloth ... Georgina brought them thick slices of cold roast beef and boiled potatoes. It was English nursery food, plain and unfussy, and none the worse for it. Only when the stewardess had left them in peace, in the dim dining room full of oil paintings and more dead fish, did Chiswell speak again. (Kindle Locations 1552-1555). 
Throughout most of the novel, Strike drinks coffee and beer, eats bacon or deep-fried food -- or tries to abstain in order to control his weight -- and joins friends for Chinese takeout food or a curry. Or this:
Having left in plenty of time, Strike made a detour to a handy McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin and a large coffee, which he consumed at an unwiped table, surrounded by other early Saturday risers. A young man with a boil on the back of his neck was reading the Independent right ahead of Strike.... (Kindle Locations 5068-5071). 
But the wonderfully named (and completely not made-up) Pratt's sets the scene for the novel where Strike and Robin have to deal with many unbearable aristocrats and their vast sense of entitlement. In fact, everything in the book revolves around how their entitlement forms their attitudes and leads them to the crimes that are being detected. In the Harry Potter books, there are wizard families with the same sense of overpowering aristocratic superiority to the more common wizards. Rowling really knows how to use her powers of observation on these rather deficient human specimens, and it makes for very good reading!

9 comments:

Jeanie said...

This sounds good, Mae. I'll have to look up Pratt's and see if it is anywhere in our path!

Tina said...

My husband and I are reading this now. He bought us copies so we are reading together, book club style. I love this series.

Beth F said...

I'll come back and read this later. I haven't read the book yet and I avoid reviews until after I've finished the book!

Jackie McGuinness said...

I didn't know there was a fourth book, I'm heading over to the library (virtually, of course) right now.

We watched the TV adaptation, but I didn't think it was as good as the book, but then, I almost never do. Felt the same with the series Sharp Objects.

judee said...

I wasn't aware that Rowling writes under another name. How interesting. Will share with my son who is a big fan of hers! ( he probably knows )

Carole said...

I'm waiting on this one from the library. She's a great writer Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Marg said...

I have already downloaded this ready to listen to as soon as I finish my current audiobook!

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I haven't started this series yet. I'm waiting for my pile to dwindle down a bit before I start a new series.

Tina said...

Now this is a great review! I also looked up Pratt’s and as surprised it’s still around. The food didn’t sound terribly good. I agree with your comment you left on my post, the third book was so violent. Great writing and I look forward to the next several books. I think I read she’s planning 7 or 8 books total for this series.