Review of “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling

With BBC’s release of the TV adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel The Casual Vacancy, I thought it was finally time to share my thoughts on the book.

I read The Casual Vacancy a couple summers ago and absolutely loved it. Granted, it was not much of a summery read, the novel dealing with dark social issues such as suicide, drug abuse, rape… The fact that Rowling included these painful yet important subject matters was part of what kept me engaged throughout the seven sections that the novel is divided in. It is not often that, as a reader, I am confronted with these themes for another purpose than crude theatricality. In this novel, however, Rowling attempts to portray society in its true colours, adding complexities to family love and neighbourly solidarity.

In terms of the plot, Rowling sets her story in a suburban town after the death of one of the Parish councillor. The plot centres around the election of a new member of council, adding a political dimension to the author’s portrayal of society. Rowling describes what is at stake with this election, depicting the struggles of the youth, the poor, and of those who have lost their direction in life. This novel is a perfect representation of the tensions residing in suburbia, the frustration that comes with the proximity of the big city and the impossibility to reach it. The novel follows a young girl having to deal with a drug-abusing mother, a Sikh family, a single mother trying to find a new man and a new male figure for her daughter, a typical suburban couple (kind of Dursley-ish although I don’t really like to compare this novel with Rowling’s series because they do not have a lot in common except for the talent of the author), a widow, a son who despises his abusive father, and the list goes on. What I loved most about this novel was the depth of the characters’ descriptions. Rowling has this propensity to create multi-dimensional characters, complex figures that force you to question your own identity. While reading this novel, you cannot help but feel for the characters all the feelings on the spectrum (compassion, frustration, anger, love…). This novel is heartbreaking but also eye-opening.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read some adult fiction and who is not afraid to be immersed in the complex life of a community.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

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