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 façade 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?
There are two camps when it comes to The Casual Vacancy. The first camp finds the book slow and very dull. These people might be the ones that are angry that this book isn’t related to the world of Harry Potter. The second camp love the book and find it fascinating. These might be the people that will read anything that J.K. Rowling writes just because she’s J.K. Rowling.
I don’t belong to either of these camps, but I loved the book anyway. First of all, as a general warning, this book is character-driven, not plot-driven. There are a lot of characters that are introduced, but I didn’t find it hard to keep track of them. In the story, nothing really happens. The characters all just react to the death and the book describes the complexity of life while a community is coping with loss. It’s a bleak book. Everything is tinted with a feeling of hopelessness and depression and most people are unhappy. Basically, Rowling wrote about life in small-town England and she made no apologies for how honest it is. There are elements of casual sex, rape, drug use, and self-harm in this book and copious amounts of swearing to go along with it. It’s by no means pretty, but it’s resounding in its sincerity.
To sum up, if you like to read books as an escape from everyday life, this book may not be for you. It’s not light-hearted, it won’t make you smile. However, if you like a dose of reality in your books and you’re interested in the complexities of people, then pick it up. Rowling proves she’s an incredible writer and her career as an author isn’t over just because Harry Potter is.
- J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”: The Reviews Are In! (blogher.com)
- First Review of J.K Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ Appears Online (contactmusic.com)
- The Casual Vacancy: Review round-up and Twitter reaction as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter follow-up hits shops (mirror.co.uk)