THE CASUAL VACANCY by J.K. Rowling
I have to give J.K. Rowling a lot of credit. She did not need to write this book. She could have sat back on her stack of Harry Potter books and counted her money for the rest of her life. This writer did not need to publish another book. She did not need to make more money. But she decided to do what she wanted to do and that is to write a novel for adults. A novel that did not have any magic wands or children flying. She wrote a novel that basically put up a mirror to life in England, whether we believe it is accurate or not, is another story.
From the outside, Pagford looks like a nice little English village. But this is not the village that Miss Marple walks through on her way to the church fair. This is a village in turmoil, as there are many secrets and lies. A political battle is brewing over plans to redraw municipal boundaries after the sudden death of a parish councilor. The debate is about a nearby housing project and a methadone clinic…most of the village leaders don’t want to have anything to do with them, and want the neighboring town to take responsibility.
In this novel, we follow eight households. There is alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, racism, teenage sex and lots and lots of gossip. Rowling not only focuses on the grownups, but gives equal time to the teenagers. And they are not happy. In fact, there is not much happiness in this village.
It is a character driven story that succeeds in showing us contemporary England and it is definitely a page turner. As a reader, you care about these people. Some of them are horrible human beings and you want to see if they get a taste of their own medicine. There are many snobs here and an upper middle class superiority that seems pretty realistic. The children of these parents are the ones that should worry us. They are not talking to their parents about anything, they hold on to secrets, fears and their anger. No one is really listening to them or paying attention. If you are a parent and read this book, I promise you that you will make more of an effort to ask questions and actually listen.
I am aware that the book has gotten some mixed reviews. I picked up this book with the knowledge that I may not like it all. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I really loved it. It is a long book, but it did not feel long. I was caught up in these lives and was invested in finding out what was going to happen and if goodness wins out. It is a sad story, but Rowling was not pretending to do anything else but tell us a tough story. I hope that she writes again, as I am interested to hear what she has to say.
Recommended viewing: A lot of buzz has been going around for the film AMOUR. It deserves your attention. Wonderful acting and overall, a fantastic film. This is a film that makes you think and you will want to discuss.