If you’re a Harry Potter fan and you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ll know that the famous J. K Rowling has released her first non-wizard ‘grown up’ book – The Casual Vacancy. Being the massive HP fan that I am, I jumped right on board and read it. So, dear students, I thought I’d review it for you. But be warned, this is not a book for everyone.
The small English town of Pagford is rocked when local Parish Councillor Barry Fairweather dies quite suddenly of an aneurysm. His place on the Parish Council is immediately up for grabs, and all of a sudden tensions develop and alliances are made when several members of the town decide to run in the election. However, like most small towns, there are a whole bunch of secrets, lies, affairs and tensions that are begging to be uncovered as families, friends and colleagues go to war with each other to get what they want.
In some respects, this book feels very much like a gentle BBC drama in terms of location and character. There are several players rather than one main character and while it initially feels like the book jumps around from person to person a lot, the connections between the characters soon become apparent and the story tightens as it goes. Even though the backdrop to the story is a lovely English village with cobbled streets and ancient ruins, the narrative itself is far from idyllic. The characters in this novel are not really likable at all; some the reader might grow to like, but I found myself caring about very few of them. They were a nasty neurotic bunch – I had heard that there were a few deaths in the novel and I found myself spending quite of lot of time deciding which characters I’d like Rowling to kill off at the end.
If you’ve read any of the reviews of The Casual Vacancy, you’ll know that it’s become rather famous (or infamous!) for its content – there’s lots of hardcore swearing, sex scenes, scenes of domestic violence and self-harm. It almost feels that after seven books of characters that are good and triumphant and funny, Rowling has just decided to let it all out. And let it out she does – this is not a happy book by any means. There are elements of black comedy to it, but for the most part, I just felt kind of sad at the end. I liked it, but it didn’t make me feel good.
So this book comes with a warning – it is recommended for more senior students. If you’d like to borrow it and have a read, you’re welcome, but you might want to have a chat to one of the librarians first before you borrow it out!!
Happy Reading! Ms White 🙂