The Casual Vacancy; 2012 J.K. Rowling; Little Brown & Company
My first five page impression was; sweet mother of Zeus, we are not in Hogwarts any more. Between the unexpected rawness of teenage internal dialogue (as well as that of their parents) and the unexpected change in genre, I came within chapters of putting “The Casual Vacancy” down. But since I am first and foremost a believer in author loyalty, I felt like I owed it to Rowling to finish the book. Which I am pleased to say, was a bloody good thing because she has once again proven that not only is she a brilliant writer, but is an incredible student of human nature as well – particularly that of those suffering at the ass end of the social and economical whims of others.
Rowling’s characters and plot are rich, intricately textured, and are powerful enough to bring out the very worst and the very best in her readers. And, just as with her Potter peeps, she has an incredible knack for crawling right into the mind of an adolescent boy or girl and understanding the intricacy of what it is that makes them do what they do.
Beginning with the death of Barry Fairweather and ending with the revelatory lancing of Pagford’s festering social boils, Rowling pulls her readers beneath multiple layers of greed and ambition, resentment and hate, cruelty and bigotry, cause and effect. Like gazing through a two way mirror where only one observer is allowed viewing access to the other, the author has taken the lives of unsuspecting adults and put them into the hands of individuals lacking in the wisdom to understand what they see, and the character to appreciate the consequences of their actions.
The Casual Vacancy is a tense read that is guaranteed to make you clench your fists, grind your teeth, offer to slap teenagers – as well as adults – up long side their heads, laugh until your sides hurt, and cry because deep down inside, you know that there is nothing you could have done differently.
On my readers scale of 1-5 stars, “The Casual Vacancy” get 4.5 stars.