Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

So, I've had a lot of people asking me when I was gonna get around to reviewing Rowling's new adult novel. HERE IT IS. And yes, I know it took long enough.

The Casual Vacancy is not the kind of book I would ever have picked up. Drama and politics in a small English town? No thanks. Of course, I'm a sucker for Harry Potter, so Rowling could have written about a rat colony and I would have snagged a copy. I must say, I'm pleased I did. I got to experience a new story, a new type of novel, and Rowling got herself 4 out of 5 stars for giving me such a pleasant surprise.

From the publisher:
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

My thoughts:
YES. This is a book for ADULTS. Within the first few pages, Rowling dropped the F bomb a couple times, and added some other colorful language. There is drugs, sex, and conflict, and the town of Pagford is nothing like Hogwarts. That being said, once I got over the initial shock of seeing some of these words in print, I was surprised at how quickly I was absorbed into the pages.

Few authors can pen a story like JK Rowling. She introduced a lot of characters into The Casual Vacancy, and while I still believe it was a bit much (think Game of Thrones perspective changes, only much more rapidly and unannounced), she was able to make these characters likable and fun to read about, even if they were shooting up or beating their wives. I mean, that takes a lot of skill.

The plot itself wasn't really anything to write home about; Barry Fairbrother dies in the midst of a zoning conflict regarding the 'projects' on the outskirts of town, and opposing sides of this debate fight over control over Barry's now vacant seat on the council. Oh and apparently, when a council member dies or is suddenly unable to perform his duties, this is called a casual vacancy. See? You DO learn from fictional stories. I was thrown off by several twists in the plot, and sudden developments and events. Rowling keeps the story interesting even when it seems like it shouldn't be quite so eventful.

I had a great time reading The Casual Vacancy, even though it definitely wasn't what I had initially expected from JK Rowling. I was very impressed, and it is clear that Rowling is a force to be reckoned with, even without harnessing the power of the Harry Potter series anymore.

- Justin

1 comment:

  1. The Casual Vacancy was a very far cry from Harry Potter. The writer has used an incident, namely a death, to bring out the social and political dynamics in a small fictitious English village. There is a scenario that would typify almost any rural community that is wholly weighed down with matters of local importance. The outside world does not matter to the inmates.

    The story is meandering and moves at a relaxed pace and it is not devoid of drama.
    The novel brings out the passions, the hatred, rivalries and resentment that fester in minds of the adults and children. Perhaps this pattern of interaction is applicable to all of humanity if only the scale were to differ. Every character is ensconced in his or her own little world and interacts and thinks accordingly. Maybe all humans are self centred to a large extent be they in a village or a metropolis.

    The feel of the book was nice and gossippy and one can easily lose oneself in it. However it did have its sad, even tragic moments.

    All-in-all the book is quite brilliant from one of the most evocative authors of modern times.