Trans activists deluge JK Rowling’s new Cormoran Strike book with bad reviews The Sunday Times 20.09.20

The original article is here.

Critics of JK Rowling’s views on transgender issues have skewed ratings for her new novel on the world’s largest reader recommendations website by posting hundreds of one-star reviews.

Troubled Blood, the latest title written under her pen name, Robert Galbraith, was published on Tuesday to critical acclaim from professional reviewers.

Joan Smith, the novelist and Sunday Times book critic, described the fifth in the Cormoran Strike series as “magnificent”. The novelist Clare Clarke in The Guardian said she was “eager for the next instalment”.

But within hours of publication of the 944-page book, an avalanche of one-star reviews on the influential Goodreads.com — including from people who admitted they had not read it — sabotaged its ratings. For much of last week, the novel had an average of 2.5 out of a possible five stars. The site, owned by Amazon, has 110 million members.

Mayra, one of more than 500 reviewers to give the book one star, branded Rowling “transphobic”. She said: “I won’t put money in her pocket again. Do I feel bad about leaving a one-star review on a book I haven’t read? Nah.”

A further reviewer, Sam, said: “I don’t normally rate books I haven’t read but for JK Rowling I’ll make an exception!:)”

Another, posted before publication, read: “If you read this book, consider yourself a transphobe.”

The Harry Potter author was the subject of further Twitter hate last week with more than 150,000 mentions of hashtag #RIPJKRowling.

Rowling has faced a backlash from campaigners and some cast members of the Harry Potter films after voicing concerns on trans issues. She has written of her fears about “erasing the concept of sex”, taking issue with the use of the phrase “people who menstruate”.

PinkNews, the news title marketed to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, published five stories in the past week about the book, all critical. The site was criticised for characterising the book in one article as being “about a murderous cis man who dresses as a woman to kill his victims”. This is a reference to a minor character who at one point disguises himself wearing a woman’s coat and wig to abduct a woman, although the novel does not describe him as a transvestite.

Smith said there was “no trans element in the book” and that it contained “a very positive portrayal of a lesbian couple”. She said it was “incredibly irresponsible” of people to attack the novel without having read it. In those cases, she said, Goodreads should consider taking reviews down.

“If you’re going to provide a forum for people to discuss a book or any other cultural artifact you have a responsibility to make sure they’re not making wild allegations or smearing the author,” she said.

By yesterday about 500 people had left five-star reviews, helping push up the average score to three stars.

Goodreads guidelines state it will not tolerate abuse of its ratings system or reviews that are harassing or threatening. It said: “We understand that reviewers take many factors into account when they form their opinions about a book.”

PinkNews’s editor, Ryan Butcher, said: “Given how transphobes vehemently attack trans people and their rights with the hypothetical notion of predatory cis men dressing as women to invade women’s spaces, I’d suggest any accusations of recklessness be levelled at JK Rowling herself.”

Rowling did not comment.