"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

The book blurb just begins to describe what this book is about. Barry Fairbrother, parish council member dies of an aneurysm, his death acting as a catalyst for a war between the inhabitants of Pagford. The small town can first be fit into two groups. Pro-Fields and Anti-Fields. The Fields is a ghetto, for lack of better word, and its addition to Pagford district was unwelcome from the get, and the council been trying to get it rezoned ever since. The deceased was from Fields, and now his seat needs to be filled. As the campaign run begins, you get to see the lives affected by this war: wives who resent husbands, girlfriends who cling desperately to failing relationships, parents who don't understand their kids, teenagers who hate their parents...All of them harboring rich fantasies of who they think they are, conflicting with who they actually are.

The biggest virtue of this book is the characters. There is no shortage of characters in this town, each with distinct personalities, flaws, problems, and goals. Every character has a relatable feature; either you feel the way they do or you know someone who does. Seeing each of the characters from varying viewpoints helps solidify the emotional ties to them; the first look scratches the surface, the second offers depths, and as the story goes on, you see more and more to each person, who they are, how they live, how they struggle... Not only is this town, this book, full of personalities, but its easy to get emotionally involved in each character's life.

I would say the biggest flaw in this book is the first 50 or so pages. The introduction to the town and characters is painstakingly slow; so slow that the first time you read curse words it seems like Rowling's making a dirty joke rather than a serious commitment to adult text. But if you can power through, the book picks up speed and intensity.

Every character revelation made me gasp with shock and every act of petty revenge or retaliation made me laugh and the ending sent me running for a box of tissues. There was plenty of dark humor to lighten the emotional overload, but there was no hiding the heartbreak. This was an amazing story, that made me feel.

As a Harry Potter fan, I might be biased, but I'm giving this story five stars: JK Rowling, you complete me.

Rating 5/5
Review's original post date:
Mar 6, 2013

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