As a huge Harry Potter fan, and general fan of Rowling as a writer, I was super pumped when I heard she was writing again. However, I didn’t just pick up this book because of Harry Potter. Last year I got my degree in Political Science and a book centered around political turmoil sounded like a great book to read, plus I knew the writing would be excellent. As such, I purchased this book in September while working on the Obama campaign and did not have any time to read. So, I started it in February which was the unfortunate beginning of my reading slump, not helped by the massive amount of exposition in this book. Hence, the long space of time between my beginning this book and finishing it 3 days ago. However, I gave this book 4 stars because I had an absolutely wonderful time reading it and I’m so glad I pushed through.
The Casual Vacancy is about the small community of Pagford and its relation to BIG AND SPARKLY Yarvil. It starts with the (totally normal and boring) death of Barry Fairbrother, and even though he’s only alive for 2 pages he is the most central character of the whole book. Every character has some connection with Barry even if they didn’t know him before he died. This story follows the split of a town over the issue of keeping a (less than stellar) neighborhood that they didn’t build in the first place. The town is divided including the town council and guess who was the deciding vote to keep the Fields? That’s right, good ole Barry. So the question is, who will get his seat with this CASUAL VACANCY (omg she said it!) and which side will win?
Since there are so many characters, connected through the commonality of living in the same town, it takes a while to follow who is who by the suggestion of a name and then to remember how they relate to each other. In true Rowling fashion, each character has a very rich backstory and unique personality that she shows, but it takes about the first 100 pages to build up these characters so nothing else really happens besides, you know, Barry’s death. But once you get past the exposition, the story takes off and you are just along for the ride. None of the characters are black and white, good or bad, and each one has you sick with hate over one thing or another. But through it all there are still the characters, in the right situations, that you are rooting for to succeed. At least for five minutes until you get to the end and realize that none of the things you were rooting for are really that important anyway. At least thats what the characters learn.
Without giving anything away, this is a very Rowling-esque book, minus the magic and death-defying you’d come to expect. Rowling writes very realistic characters, with sickingly accurate desires, and is not afraid to sacrifice them for the good of the story. I gave this four stars, because, you know, the LONG EXPOSITION, but totally worth it to read and I’ll probably re-read it someday. Who knows, maybe it’ll go up to a 5 star if I’m not in my own reading funk.