It is fair to say that all of JK Rowling's books have profoundly touched my life in different ways. Lynn Shepherd's plea for her to stop publishing made me immensely sad. For like many of my friends I was one of the Harry Potter kids; I grew up with Hogwarts, I relished every page, watched every film, complained about every discrepancy between the two and, as soon as I was old enough, insisted I be taken to the midnight launch events at my local bookstore.
As Harry battled with the twisted bureaucrat Dolores Umbridge and JK Rowling taught us to understand that those in a position of authority might not always have our best interests at heart, I too battled against the UK's stifling education system, designed at every stage to suck the life and soul out of you, to crush your individuality, to put you down, to work you to death and to constantly remind you of your failures rather your successes. But rather than accepting my fate and falling head first into the quagmire of depression and despair that inevitability stalks such a culture like a Dementor, I realised, like Hermione Granger, that there were far more important things in my life than exam results. Things that were far more worthy of my time and my energy like friendship and writing, not for assessment, but for publication and enjoyment.
I know that without Harry Potter and its truly magical universe, gripping plot and extraordinary cast of characters who stay with me even now, seven years on from the publication of Deathly Hallows, still whispering advice and witty remarks in my ear, I would never have picked up another book and, if I had, I doubt I would have found the same comfort or sincerity that guided me to the right university. Not to Oxford or Cambridge, wasting my life to get the right grades, only to spend another three years slogging away with very little social life, but to Loughborough whose English degree, assessed by 100% coursework, has helped me develop both as a writer and a reader.
But I didn't suddenly become an adult when Deathly Hallows was published nor were they the only books she wrote which affected my life. When J.K Rowling returned to bookshops after a five-year interregnum with the beautifully written The Casual Vacancy, the world had changed enormously. A new government had come to power and it felt, at times, like they were singling me out: I narrowly avoided loosing out on the Educational Maintenance Allowance which I had relied upon so that I didn't have to work alongside my A-levels and was plunged into £30,000 of debt to go to university, a policy that continues to make me very angry. But it wasn't just the policies that grated with me, more than anything it was the way the Cameron ministry verbally attacked and encouraged others to sneer at those, like my own family, who were unfortunate enough to find themselves claiming benefits. I didn't fully understand why this was happening or why, if the government really did have no other choice but to pursuit these policies, any group of highly educated people would seek to stir up such hatred.
But as I read through The Casual Vacancy, which I devoured in a mere few days after its release, I understood more and more that I was not alone in what was happening to me. Indeed perhaps I was one of the lucky ones, perhaps I, like Barry Fairbrother, was capable of getting a good job, paying back my loan and leading a happy life. JK Rowling showed me that it is the aggressive, foul-mouthed, obnoxious but ultimately vulnerable and powerless Krystal Weedons that are most in need of our support in standing up to the Howard Mollison's of the world, the sort of people who share the condemnatory attitude of David Cameron.
And who could forget J.K's recent fray into crime fiction? As a huge fan of the genre, I was impressed by how unique The Cuckoo's Calling is. Slow paced and measured, there are no flashy set pieces and no gruesome murders just conversations and ponderings about the identity of the murderer. Slightly cynical, but not overtly so, and able to poke fun at his sadistic sounding ex-girlfriend, Cormoran Strike's personality reflects his approach to his cases: he takes his time to quiz the suspects and reveals the killer in a way that is impossible to see coming. As someone trying to get a book published it reminded me that a great story doesn't necessarily have to be a race to end and that there is something to be said for slower paced novels; I am all the wiser for having read it.
I sincerely hope that JK Rowling never stops writing and I am hugely excited about the publication of The Silkworm. Having immortalised her as the greatest writer to have ever lived, the press is unfortunately now looking for a wholly unfair excuse to tear her down. Without her books I know I would not be the person I am today. Thank-you JK.
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