Wednesday, December 19, 2012
CASUAL VACANCY by JK Rowling
I am late to the party with this review but I had to wait a long time to check out a copy of this book from my local library. Like so many, I am a huge fan of Rowling's HARRY POTTER series. She is a gifted storyteller whose special talent lay in the wonderful and whimsical details that she added to make Potter's world come alive. I wasn't sure what to expect from her first adult novel and it is truly a departure from everything that came before.
The story begins with the death of town councilman Barry Fairbrother from an aneurysm. His sudden death leaves an empty spot on the town council or "a casual vacancy." The small town of Pagford quickly moves from shock and grief over Fairbrother's death to scheming and speculating about filling his council vacancy. Fairbrother's death brings out the worst in everyone. The town has long been mired over a dispute over an adjoining community that is poverty-stricken and crime-ridden. Fairbrother's death leaves his enemies a chance to finally achieve their political goal of getting rid of the blight on their idyllic town. A full-out political war breaks out in the small town as dirty secrets are revealed and everyone's worst side comes out.
Rowling is definitely a very good writer. Her characters are all well-written and have great depth. It is amazing that she was able to keep up with so many different characters. That being said, this wasn't a particularly enjoyable book to read. I didn't like a single one of the characters. They were all a bunch of grasping, self-serving egomaniacs. The whole book depressed me. But perhaps that was the point. It may be that Rowling just wanted us to recognize how certain things can bring out the worst in people and how we are all guilty of terrible behavior at times.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for certain readers. If you are coming to this book expecting a whimsical follow-up to HARRY POTTER, you will be disappointed. This is a very dark book filled with language and harsh situations that show the very worst in people. It is well-written and interesting but not particularly enjoyable to read.