When I heard that J.K. Rowling was writing a novel for adults, I was instantly excited. I loved the Harry Potter series and couldn’t wait to read Rowling’s newest piece of writing. In fact, I was so excited that I bought the novel the day it came out. “You know it’s not Harry Potter, right?” the girl at the check out asked. Well, I did know, but I didn’t realize how unlike Harry Potter it would be.
For starters, The Casual Vacancy is not about magic or wizards or wizards who practice magic. There’s actually very little that’s magical about it. Articles written before the book was available in stores said Rowling’s book novel is a “crime novel.” Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not.
As someone who isn’t political in the least, I was sad to realize that the novel was about politics and that a “casual vacancy” is a political term and not the title of a novel about a murder at a run down motel. To say the least, I wasn’t impressed from the beginning. It actually took me a while to really get into the story. The first 150 pages or so are spent introducing characters, their families, nicknames, positions, etc. Almost every character in the novel has a nickname, most of which I couldn’t keep track of or figure out whose nickname belonged to who until about page 400 (the novel is 503 pages long).
Without giving too much away, the novel is about a small, fictional town called Pagford where everyone knows everyone else and gossip fuels everything. The novel starts off when a man named Barry Fairbrother suddenly dies on this way to dinner with his wife. Barry Fairbrother was on the Parish Council and now that he’s dead, there is a casual vacancy for his spot, so naturally, everyone wants the spot so they can make legal decisions for the town.
From there, the novel focuses on every single person in town and how they are connected to Barry or the Parish Council. I’ll say this, I really hope a town like Pagford doesn’t exist in reality. There is not one person who has an ounce of kindness in them. The only character that I somewhat like was Krystal Weedon, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives on the outskirts of town and is shunned by everyone, including her drug addicted mother.
When headlines say that Rowling’s new novel is for adults, believe it. The Casual Vacancy has everything, pedophilia, drug use, sex, rape, molestation, domestic abuse, child abuse, depression, suicide, adultery, underage drinking, and neglect. The novel starts and ends with a funeral. To say the least, reading it won’t brighten your day.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I’d suggest skipping The Casual Vacancy and rereading Rowling’s amazing series.