This book was published in 2012, but I had a backlog of books to read first, so I didn’t read it until last year. Whence why it’s on my 2013 list.
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.
I grew up reading the Harry Potter books. The first book came out when I was 11 and it stayed with me into my 20’s. I escaped into that world, connected with the characters, laughed with joy and cried many, many tears when my beloved characters died. I honestly believe that JK Rowling inspired a whole new generation of children to love literature all over again, she even inspired the same passion in adults. So when the Harry Potter books came to an end, I wondered, what next?
When the news emerged that Jo would be writing an adult book that was as faraway from Harry Potter as possible, a lot of fans were in uproar, they were angry, sad and confused, they wanted to know why she wasn’t writing sequels or prequels, although these have been teased over the years. To be honest, I never understood the backlash, I thought it was great that she was going to write something different, her capabilities to bring people and places to life had been enjoyed for years, so I had no doubt at all she could write a story that captivated people. And that’s exactly what she did with The Casual Vacancy.
This book focuses around the death of Barry Fairbrother and the idyllic town of Pagford. Barry’s death means there is a seat on the Parish Council; this acts as a catalyst for a war that resonates through the town, with people battling to win his place and the power that comes with it. But don’t read this blurb and think it’s all about bake offs, posters and campaigns, what we have here is an unflinching look at society. Behind the scenic beauty of Pagford we see crumbling marriages, a division of class, drug abuse and teenage sex. And that’s just scratching the surface.
The characters are all well formed and believable, some are grotesque, some humorous and some are so brave yet tragic that your heart breaks for them. It does take a while for the plot of the story to be revealed, as Jo spends some time investing in the characters and the relationships and frictions between them, but stick with it. As the story develops, so does the drama. There’s a sense of tension that builds up in the final part of the book as events unfold. The ending is seeped in tragedy and will leave you breathless. A brutal book that covers taboos often ignored, but very much apparent, in modern day society. JK Rowling did it once again; she made me fall in love with her ability as an author and confirmed my fan girl status. I have nothing but love and admiration for her. This book further adds to her hype and displays why she is one of the finest writers of our time, and rightfully so.
Read this if you’re a Harry Potter fan who isn’t ignorant, fans of drama will love this as well as those who like a fictional, but so well written it could be factual, look at the human condition and modern day Britain. It may even help you realise not to be so quick as to judge others, a fine book.