J. K. Rowling is best known for writing the Harry Potter series: a series that was written for teen readers and was enjoyed by many adults as well. (Harry Potter and his friends take us on an adventure filled with excitement and intrigues in a fantasy land that we know does not exist in reality.) While browsing the bookshelves of our local library, I came across The Casual Vacancy, the novel Rowling had written after the well-known Harry Potter stories. A book written for adults, I had heard mutterings that it was not as good as her previous work. I do not always pay attention to what critics say, however, and picked up the copy to decide for myself.
From the first pages, I was reminded what a good writer Rowling is. One tends to forget this simple fact when the media hype for the Harry Potter series overshadows her talent. The book begins with a pivotal event in the novel and, immediately, the reader is drawn into the story. There is no explanation of why, when, or even where. Instead the situation just is – and as a reader, one accepts it.
The story is set in the English town of Pagford. After the unexpected death of one of its councillors, various people within the town react to the vacuum of power that has been left behind. We are given a peak into the lives of residents who have lived only in the idyllic town: teens, teachers, moms and dads; those with enough money, and those without; those who are content with their lives, and those who wish to break away from the rut they find themselves in. Rowling’s description of the characters she introduces us to are realistic – and the actions they take are in line with their personalities. As a reader, I ached for some – and wished vengeance on others. I cried at times, and sighed with relief when I realised that some would get their happy ending.
Rowling depicts the nitty-gritty of the human personality: the good and the ugly. Her plot is authentic and the growth of some characters realistic. The novel portrays a snapshot into the lives many of us could be living – with all its ups and downs, as well as all its mistakes. I enjoyed reading this story and the next adult novel I see published by this author, I will pick up with no hesitation.
Have you read any of Rowling’s novels?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014