The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling has probably been the most anticipated book of the decade. An ardent Harry Potter fan, I was very eager to see what the author had in store for adults. Although I confess I was an adult when I read the Potter series too. Unfortunately, the book fell flat and I did not finish it. What is it they say about Great Expectations?
The story is set in the small town of Pagford, a close knit community of successful ‘rich’ people bordered by a council estate/ lower economic households. A councilman dies prematurely leaving a vacancy, and the war is on! Every influential person in town has their own agenda and wants their person to fill the vacancy. There is the rudimentary Asian family with doctor parents, an influential deli owner with a weak hearted son, grieving widow, new scarred girl, truant teens, serial junkies and extra marital affairs. There are attacks on character and graphic and explicit language. I was personally turned off by all the profanity and not sure that ‘barely teen’ kids should have been portrayed using such language. Hate and ambition burn strong in more than one heart.
If this is an honest portrait of a contemporary British village, I dare not imagine what the coming generations will grow up to be. If J K Rowling was aiming for a strong reaction from the reader, she got one out of me. Maybe the author overcompensated in tried to create something for adults. Sadly, most of the ‘adult’ emotions and topics are negative ones.
Reviews on Amazon are almost evenly split between 1 to 5. This itself is a rarity. I don’t know what made me dislike the book. Was it the fact that it was radically different from the world of Hogwarts? Or was it because the book harped on the dark side of human nature? Despite my opinion, I think The Casual Vacancy is a book that almost every book lover will want to read, if only to see what J K Rowling will write about if not Harry Potter.