The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – An underestimated gem or just a sterling effort?

Review: The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

Amy Arnott

Harry Potter author, JK Rowling is a national treasure who brought reading back to the lives of children just as society feared its decline.
 
Now she is back with her latest novel aimed at an adult audience. Loyal followers of her work, new readers and those doubting her ability have all been lined up to read and pull apart her long awaited arrival.
 
The Casual Vacancy explores the ordinary, the taboo and the horrific truth of society, centred on the idyllic town of Pagford and its struggle against the less idyllic city of Yarvil.
 
The events of the novel all take place after the untimely death of Barry Fairbrother, who leaves behind him a town at war with many of them vying for his seat on the Parish council. 
 
Unruly teenagers, terrible parents and snobbish conservatives are some of the characters that dominate the first 500 pages. And it can seem like there isn’t a likeable character among them.
 
However, likeability isn’t what Rowling was aiming for here. Each character is a fully evolved and unique mirror held up to the public. However, it is the plot that will keep readers turning the pages.
 
With each chapter, Rowling reveals just enough of these horribly real characters’ lives. With subplots of abuse, drug dealing, adultery and bullying you can’t help but question the world we live in. 
 
This novel is by no means an easy read, it tackles issues we would normally shy away from, exposing the truth we’d prefer to sweep under carpet, and does so in a narrative that is just as unrelenting as the events it’s describing.
 
Sex, swearing and comparisons to Harry Potter will cloud some individuals’ judgement, but beyond that is a bold novel from one of the greatest storytellers of our time. 

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