Harry Potter fanatics waited with anticipation for JK Rowling’s debut foray into adult fiction late last year, expecting the fantasy author to deliver another unique story for a more grown-up audience.
The Casual Vacancy didn’t disappoint. It would be untrue though to say it was on the same par as the Harry Potter series, which instantly transported the reader to a magical realm as soon as the first page was turned. By contrast, the introductory chapters in The Casual Vacancy were too bombastic, rambling and deviating from the more interesting character stories. However, once Rowling moves forward from the rather long-winded explanations of why a local council in an English village is divided, the story quickly gathers momentum and offers an entertaining read.
Barry Fairweather, a popular member of Pagford community and council seatholder, dies in tragic circumstances leaving behind a distraught family and devastated friends. There are those though who have only one ambition when they hear about his death – to win his council seat.
Rowling dedicates different sections of the book to each main character and it is difficult not to empathise and experience the different emotions each individual goes through. From the bullied teenager seeking solace from life by self mutilating; to the middle-aged wife who hates her husband and lusts after the teenage members of her daughter’s favourite boyband; to the downtrodden schoolgirl, at a loss since Barry’s death, trying to keep up with her heroin addict and part-time prostitute mother.
Rowling builds momentum throughout by layering the characters’ stories around each other so that each chapter goes from one point of view of the day’s events to another character’s totally different take on those same events.
The book is entertaining but deals with very real and very serious societal issues. It ends on the same note it begins but it is impossible to predict the eventual outcome. Even though the events leading up to the conclusion of the story are both positive and negative, Rowling ensures the reader leaves the community of Pagford with a smile. She convinces the reader there is life after wizards and wands.
– Shauna Rahman
|Book review - Health & Living - There’s life after Harry|