The betrayal of JK Rowling

Eye catching title, right.
For those of you who live on Pluto and who don’t know–last month,  a partner at the London law firm Russells indirectly unmasked JK Rowling as the writer Robert Galbraith, author of the Cuckoo’s Calling, by apparently letting it slip to his wife’s best friend. She, for some bizarre reason best known to herself, then decided to take it upon herself to let the world know via the twittersphere. One assumes she had not thought through the consequences for her best friend’s husband’s career and firm.
This has thrown up all sorts of discussions as to the moral implications. And, as yet, I have been unable to work out what could have possessed a senior partner in a reputable law firm to blab his client’s secret to his wife’s best friend. It begs the question as to whether there is more to this story, because there is clearly enough here for a TV special if not a book.
The unanswered questions which buzzed the media for a few weeks (but which have now eerily faded) include:

  • Did the lawyer fess up to protect someone else?
  • is the very indiscreet ‘best-friend’ of his wife still on the Christmas card list?
  • What possessed her to do such a thing other than the bewildering schoolyard need to show off (I know something you don’t, so there!)
  • Will the lawyer survive this public vilification?
  • is it right (Via the Financial Times) to shame an employee who breaks the rule as Russells solicitors did with their partner Mr Gossage?

Worse was the law firm’s pathetic mitigation–“the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly”

We know that Ms Rowling was miffed enough to demand an apology through the courts. One also assumes that her relationship with this law firm was swiftly terminated.

But my point here is that this case clearly illustrates the power of betrayal to invoke  sympathy.

Put aside for one moment the catty remarks that immediately followed the revelation that this was all an orchestrated publicity stunt to sell more books, or that we should care less because this is the highly minted JK Rowling, for goodness sake!

Let’s look at this from the dizzy heights of that rare and wonderful thing, trust.

My sympathies are with Ms Rowling. In the Potter aftermath and the mixed response to her adult novel A Casual Vacancy, The Cuckoo’s Calling was an attempt at testing the water while it was clear and not muddied by expectation and a need to stand up and be counted politically. It seemed to be passing that test. And so, to have it all blow up in her face was an unpleasant surprise and a betrayal of astonishing proportions baring in mind the personalities involved.

ladling on the irony here, it goes to show how powerful a tool betrayal is. No matter how appalling, or even admirable the circumstances (there is little to admire in this shabby episode), when people are betrayed it evokes enormous sympathy. I, too, would have been irate. Who is there in the world to whom you can tell an intimate or professional secret and expect them to keep it?

Worth remembering as you work on your WIP, methinks.



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