Warning: This post does not contain major plot spoilers of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but it does include plot details and reactions. So if you don’t want to read ANY impressions of the novel at all
. . . stop here!
The reviews are starting to roll in for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel, and let’s just say the opinions are mixed. The Casual Vacancy is “dull.” It includes “many nice touches.” It’s “ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent.” It’s “a sour novel.”
I read and reviewed the novel last week, and I’ll certainly agree that the story—which is about small-town gossip, poverty and politics—lacks the magic of Harry Potter. And I mean that in several different ways: Literally, this novel is about real life, in all its messy glory (and I think Death Eaters might be easier to fight than the cycle of poverty). The novel does not zip along with the same energy as Harry Potter, and the characters will not imprint themselves in your imagination with the same permanence as Harry and the gang. (I mean, really: I feel like Hermione has been my friend since I was 11 years old!)
But The Casual Vacancy has merit. Here’s an excerpt from my review:
Rowling is a master at fleshing out characters and describing their world, and she takes her time, examining moral dilemmas and town gossip from multiple points of view. Though it does not include spells and sparks, the climax of The Casual Vacancy is wrenching. We have come to know these characters and to root for them. Even though they are flawed—and some are repulsive—it is painful to watch them fall. Readers often want stories that “transport” them. The Casual Vacancy is a difficult read because it transports us to a sad and serious reality. The only fantasy here is the characters’ wish for a better life.
Keep reading the review here. Will you read this novel? If you’ve already started—or finished—The Casual Vacancy . . . what did you think?