This is a review of “The Casual Vacancy” by J. K. Rowling. It is her first novel for adults.
I (like everyone else on Earth, I suspect) was not sure what to expect with this novel. I loved Harry Potter, which I first read at the age of eleven. I eagerly awaited each new release in the series starting with the third novel, right up to the last novel which was released when I was in University.
I half dreaded the release of this book. While wanting more from this wonderful author, I did not want anything to tarnish the esteem in which I held her.
I am happy to say that I was very impressed with this book and enjoyed it immensely. It was intriguing from the start (even though the blurb reads a tad boring) and I just had to keep reading.
Barry Fairbrother is trying to meet a deadline for an article that is to be printed in the local newspaper. It’s very important to him and even though he has a splitting headache and it’s his and his wife’s anniversary, he pushes himself to finish it. They are on their way to dinner when he suddenly collapses in the carpark. Dead. Of an aneurysm. Leaving behind his wife and four children, his friends, his colleagues, his acquaintances and his champion teenaged Girl’s Rowing Team.
One of the biggest things he’s left behind is a vacancy in the local council seat. Barry was passionate about The Fields, a poor socioeconomic area that was incorporated into the pristine township of Pagford decades ago (to the chagrin of proper Pagfordian snobs), and keeping it a part of Pagford, to aid those that live there in bettering themselves.
This story presents the perspective of a myriad of characters. Adult and teenaged, “for The Fields” and “against”, rich and poor, kind and callous. A battle of sorts ensues following Barry’s death. His seat is fought over, his causes both championed and opposed.
It’s a wonderful, honest and moving commentary on modern society: dysfunctional families, socioeconomic gaps, the failings of the health and welfare systems currently in place, mental illness, abuse, bullying, teenage defiance, unhappy marriages, selfish husbands/men and also hope.
Sad, poignant, compelling, this is a story that sticks with you. I loved it.