Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
by J. K. Rowling
Little, Brown, 2012, 512pgs. Fiction

Barry Fairbrother, a charismatic champion of the poor, dies suddenly from an aneurism and leaves the small town of Pagford in shock. His death has repercussions on everyone, his wife and family of course, but also on the town’s politics and even on family dynamics in isolated parts of town. The story chronicles a huge cast of characters as they deal with the daily goings-on of life: trying to keep their relationships and families together, upholding their ideals, and growing up. The book is largely a social commentary on class differences, the politics of addiction, and the ways in which we can affect the people around us.

For those looking for a Harry Potter read-alike, this is most definitely not it. The Casual Vacancy is gritty, full of sex and violence, and largely devoid of hope or whimsy. On the other hand, those looking for a wry commentary on modern life, who love deeply flawed characters, and slow, detail-oriented works, may take delight in this book. Personally, I found the ending to be unnecessarily tragic, and many of the ‘adult’ aspects to be over-the-top, but Rowling’s classic wit did prevail, and her biting commentary on the characters was worthwhile in and of itself.

I would recommend this book for lovers of English literature and die-hard J. K. Rowling fans, but that's pretty much it.


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