The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling
Plot Summary:When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
Expectations:I know this is nothing like Harry Potter, so I just tried to look at this book as something new written by an amazing author.
Review:This is nothing like Harry Potter. Okay, I knew that, but deep down I was envisioning some of the ... magic in the world of Harry Potter would be evident here - but this is truly an adult book where honesty is more valuable than beauty. It's real life, and it's harsh. It was a little difficult to get into because of the vast array of characters who interact against the backdrop of the parish council election. And J.K. Rowling takes her time masterfully shaping and delineating each character, creating a characteristically intricately plotted story which weaves the lives of at least twenty people into a varied, lively tale of the every day. This novel is like a soap opera full of drama, petty jealousies, sex, drugs, abuse and adolescent rage. Every private thought is revealed to the reader through the omniscient narrator making every failing of each character clear.
At the heart of the political debate behind the election is the clashing lifestyles of the middle class and the very poor. It's a look into where the line is drawn between handouts and civic duty to your fellow man. How much care we should give to our neighbors, and when must we expect them to take care of themselves. There is no easy answer and there is not one provided in this book. This book just looks at the people who suffer under the system and it seems like it's everybody.
This is a challenging and thought-provoking book, heavily dependent on realistically-portrayed characters and real-life issues. It is tragic and darkly humorous, but not without some hope and charm. Some of the characters are pompous and self-aggrandizing, wrapped up in their own small world-views, and the hope stems mostly from the younger characters who are not yet completely corrupted. And yet for some it is too late. There is so much in this book that makes you think about life at every stage, and though it didn't touch me on a deep emotional level, I admire it very much as a tremendous work of art.