Book Review: The Casual Vacancy


Being a Harry Potter fan I obviously had high hopes for J.K. Rowling's first post Potter offering. While I wouldn't say the book disappointed (she is a brilliant writer/story teller), I can't say I was much impressed either.

The Casual Vacancy is the story of a small English town reeling from the sudden death of a very influential town’s person. Interestingly enough the story deals with the issue of race and class prejudices, which actually shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering similar themes/issues, were dealt with by Rowling in the Harry Potter series.  

The story sees the small well to do town of Pagford attempt to relinquish council responsibilities from their impoverish and 'money draining' county neighbours, the Fields. Barry Fairbrother is the influential character who dies suddenly at the beginning of the story. As a Pagford resident and Parish Councillor his political ambition is to integrate the Fields residences in with Pagford. This is driven by his own humble upbringings in the Fields and his adult successes which he credits to being educated in Pagford instead of in the Fields. When Barry dies, his work befalls to his close friends whom feel the need to carry on his crusade.
Dr. Parminder Jawanda, one of Fairbrother's close friend and a fellow council member, is the mother of Pagford's only ethnic family. The Jawanda's presence in the fictional town exposes the racist prejudices of some of Pagford residences.
Another key character to the story is Krystal Weddon, Fairbrothers little prodigy, is a poverty-stricken Fields teen who goes to school in Pagford. Weddon lives with her drug addict mother and infant brother. For the entire book Krystal is subjected to hash scrutiny from Pagford residences since she and her family basically encompass all that is 'wrong' with the Fields. Krystal's story is sadly very tragic though much like marmite you'll either take a strong disliking to her or like her out of pity!

While I without a doubt credit Rowling as a brilliant writer with an unbound imagination, The Casual Vacancy read to me like a well written script for Eastenders or Coronation Street, before their storyline's became so outlandish. For this I felt the story was just too safe and too 'real to life' and what I would have expected from the imaginative mind of J.K.Rowling.
While I do think Rowling deserves her dues for dealing with topics such as race and class which few fictional writes dear enter into. The story wasn't ground breaking or interesting enough for me to have put the (very thick) book down thawed in thought like a good book should do.

Having said that I do think the grittiness of the book and Rowling's writing could be better suited for the younger audience. Like that of the work of Jacqueline Wilson, the story could be used to raise the consciousness of race and class prejudices in ages not so jaded and still capable of change. 

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