Really? I think her characterizations are sensitive and complex. I'm up to page 30 now. She has devoted all thirty to introducing new characters- different "types" who live in this village. Here are some more samples to discuss:
An abusive father and husband: "Simon took two stamping steps toward his wife. Ruth shrank back against the sink. The pink plastic brush fell out of Paul's hand. "I'm not going to fund the little fucker's filthy habit! Fucking cheek of him, puffing away in my
fucking shed!" Simon hit himself on the chest on the word "my"; the dull thunk made Ruth wince. "I was bringing home a salary when I was that spotty little shit's age. If he wants fags, he can pay for them himself, all right? All right?
My favorite character so far- Shirley, a very English
middle aged woman: "None of the delight frothing and fizzing inside Shirley had been apparent while Howard had been in the room. They had merely exchanged the comments proper to sudden death before he had taken himself off to the shower. Naturally Shirley had known, as they slid stock words and phrases back and forth between them like beads on an abacus, that Howard must have be as brimful of ecstasy as she was; but to express these feelings out loud, when the news of the death was still fresh in the air, would have been tantamount to dancing naked and shrieking obscenities, and Howard and Shirley were clothed, as always, in an invisible layer of decorum that they never laid aside."
The first "sex" scene, involving Gavan, a friend of the dead Barry, and Kay, his middle aged girlfriend: "Too late, he had realized that she was taking this uncharacteristic act of assertion as a tacit confession of those things he was determined to avoid saying. She had kissed him greedily; he had found her wet intrusive kisses erotic when the affair began, now he found them vaguely repellent. He took a long time to climax, his horror at what he had started constantly threatening to deflate his erection. Even this worked against him: she seemed to take his unusual stamina as a display of virtuosity."
As you can tell, this is pretty cynical stuff. Pretty much everybody is either pathetic or objectionable. Very nearly the only character with any admirable or redeeming qualities at all is the elder son of the abusive father, Andrew, who has fallen in love with the new girl at school: "He heard light, rapid footsteps coming closer, and then she was there; she had sat down right next to him. She nudged his chair, her body moving his. His nostrils caught a whisper of perfume. The whole of the left side of his body was burning with awareness of her, and he was grateful that the cheek nearest her was much less acne-ridden than the right. He had never been this close to her and wondered whether he dared look at her, make some sign of recognition; but immediately decided that he had been paralyzed too long, and that it was too late to do so naturally."
The plot so far is very simple- a member of the local governing council has died, and now everyone with an agenda is going to jockey and maneuver to take it over for themselves of one of their friends. That's just a thin excuse to spend pages describing various individuals' character flaws. If you like that sort of thing, it's good, if not, then not.
I will say it strikes me as a very British
approach to writing. If I have one criticism, it's that Rowling is trying too hard to make her public school as unlike Hogwarts as possible. The building is ugly, the adults are ineffectual and disrespected, the children almost entirely lacking in empathy for others. I think some people will consider this just too depressing to read. I predict it will have a relatively happy ending though.
“There’s room for all of us here... But there’s no middle ground between ‘We belong here’ and ‘No you don’t.’