Well, I really don't think there's anyone who is not familiar with the name J. K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books will forever be part of our culture. So, with that series ended, Rowling's announcement that she was writing an adult novel was greeted with much (much!) anticipation.
And with it's publication - much scrutiny. As a fan of the Potter books, I had to read The Casual Vacancy.
"6.11 A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred :
(a) when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or
(b) when his notice of resignation is received';
(c) on the day of his death..."
And in the parish of Pagford, England, it's option (c) when councillor Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies. The local council is warring amongst themselves. The issue? Who should be responsible for the local estate - referred to as The Fields. Should it be Pagford or neighbouring city of Yarvil. This vacancy offers up the chance to turn the tide for one side or the other...the race is on to fill the seat....
'Both, as they watched....were contemplating the casual vacancy: and they saw it not as an empty space but as a magician's pocket, full of possibilities."
Rowling rapidly introduces us to a plethora of characters. Each is well-drawn and provided me with vivid mental images. Inthe beginning I did have to make myself a reference list of characters and their relationships until I had a firm grasp of who was who.
The Casual Vacancy is driven by it's characters. Most of them are not nice people. But it's an interesting social commentary. The 'better-offs' in Pagford are quite sure they are above those 'lower classes' living in The Fields. But our behind the scenes view allows us to see that they are no different from each other. The Pagfordians are just more polite about it.
The Casual Vacancy is not a small book - it's five hundred pages long. Although I'm a voracious reader, it took me almost two weeks to finish. Why? Well, packed into that five hundred pages is a lot of pettiness, bullying, selfishness, cruelty, vindictiveness, conniving, scheming...you get the picture. And it made me sad, just really sad. I really didn't get much enjoyment from reading this book. But I soldiered on, determined to see what happened at the end. Which I didn't like. The one character I enjoyed met a depressing fate.
Rowling's writing is impeccable, the town and the machinations of it's inhabitants are all part of a tightly woven plot and her characterizations are spot on. So it's going to be a very hard book to rate for me. The writing is a four, but my enjoyment was only a three, so I'll go with 3.5/5.
The Casual Vacancy is definitely an adult novel, with lots of profanity, drug use, self harm, sexual situations and more. Read an excerpt of The Casual Vacancy.