The Casual Vacancy
Avid Harry Potter fan that I am, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I haven’t yet read this. Go easy on me.
I took comfort in the fact that her voice was the same as it was in HP. It was like she knew how hard it was for the world to read a book she’d written that wasn’t about Harry Potter and wanted to ease us into it with the soothing familiarity of her storytelling.
“The soft purr and hiss of the shower was audible from where Shirley and her rosy reflection say facing each other, savoring the news that seemed still to effervesce in the atmosphere, like bubbling champagne.”
The characters are all members of a small town outside of London where a sudden death has left a vacant seat on its council. Rowling rotates through the various characters and their families through the book, giving us a clear grasp of the goings-on of the townspeople. At first, I had to keep going back to remember which characters were which, but once their connections to each other became clear, it was easier to navigate. In some ways, it reminds me a show like Desperate Housewives—lots of gossip, lots of secrecy.
Rowling had this beautiful way of knowing just when to switch perspective to the character you’re next most eager to hear about.
It’s a little bit heavy at times—especially in the lives of the current and aspiring council member’s teenage children. I appreciated the realistic ending. Many of the conflicts happening at the start of the novel seemed to mostly resolve themselves, but the damage left behind changed the characters and the course of their lives in a way that felt real and human. I’d like to see where they go from here and that’s not something I often find myself yearning for.