The Casual Vacancy – Review

It took me a very long time to get into this novel. Two-and-a-half years in fact. But once I was in it, I was completely engrossed. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters so badly that I woke up from a dream thinking “What’s Parminder Jawanda going to do?”

This book, written by JK Rowling, is so completely different from the Harry Potter series that I was very taken aback. I was not expecting a Harry Potter-like story, but this novel is very adult.

The language is crude, the characters despicable, the content jarring.

Just a run-down of some of the issues: Rape, brutal domestic abuse, child abuse, adultery, pornography, drug abuse, unhappy marriages, familial strife, broken friendships, tragic death. I’m sure I’m missing a few.

You don’t feel happy or positive reading the book, the ending doesn’t wrap everything up with a pretty bow, the sun doesn’t shine brighter. Some characters do resolve their issues but most don’t. You’re left sad, a little shocked but mostly fulfilled. Life isn’t pretty, most people have real issues and those issues don’t get resolved overnight. This novel was realistic, perhaps not my experiences with reality, and it would have been insulting if the ending of the book was a happy, cheery one. I commend Rowling for writing a novel that shows the gritty, unhappy parts of life in a way where you feel attached to the characters, even the ones I wish I could shake and yell at for being horrible people.

Definitely recommend this book. If you grow up as a Harry Potter fan and the magical stories Rowling created shaped, essentially, who you are, and you had a hard time getting into the book because of how vastly different the style and content are to Harry Potter, just pretend she didn’t write the novel and you’ll be absorbed in the novel no problem.


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