Review: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling
2012
Little, Brown and Company
978-0-316-22853-4

J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel begins with the death of Barry Fairbrother, a prominent member of the Pagford Parish Council who devoted much of his time to helping underprivileged kids from the Fields, the rough neighbourhood on the outskirts of town where he himself grew up. Barry’s death results in a casual vacancy on the council. The council is divided between those who wish to return the Fields to the city of Yarvil and shut down the local methadone clinic that aids several of its residents, and those who believe the Fields belong in Pagford and want to keep the clinic open. Conflict also exists in the homes of Pagford’s residents, and even those who appear to be the most upstanding of citizens have skeletons in their closets. Who will win the election, and what will the consequences be for the townspeople?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book given its mixed reviews. I loved the Harry Potter series, but this book is definitely not anything like Harry Potter and it’s not really fair to compare the two. I did find the book overly long. Not much happens in the first half, and some of the characters are just not that interesting. I was much more interested in reading about the teenagers’ struggles with their parents and their relationships with one another than I was in the election itself. The adults often seem too concerned about how they are perceived by others and obsess over trivial matters to a degree that is sometimes comical but oftentimes tedious. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read but I didn’t completely dislike it. I am curious to see what Ms. Rowling comes up with next.

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