Months of anticipation had gone by and I had finally put my hand on the much-awaited new book by the wizard whose Harry Potter series have become a self-sustained phenomenon, J.K. Rowling. I could not wait to see what awaited me in the 500 pages, and I dived in full weight into what now to me seems to be a decent piece of literature, yet also disappointing.
It wasn’t magic that awaited me in the book. It was the complete opposite actually. A world of politics and corruption, teenage sex and drugs. A world where magic is much needed yet never found. A world of extreme reality.
Set in the fictional British town of Pagford, the novel kicks off with the death of Council Chairman, Barry Fairbrother, and follows the aftermath of the seat “vacancy” on the council. The novel is written from the viewpoint of different characters, some perceiving the early death of Barry as a complete horror, some as an opportunity for claiming power, while others as a mere topic for little town gossip.
Written in the viewpoint of a multitude of characters (and at one point of the novel I had lost count and almost lost interest in the book as a whole), whose household holds a secret. We get to discover such secrets in such a matter-of-fact kind of way that Rowling never leaves us in shock, but in desperation to get to know more about the characters whom we grow fond of as the novel progresses until it concludes with us crying over the victims of a society we know not only the British are familiar with, but us as well.
When asked about whether I personally liked the book or not, I am in an immediate urge to say “I loved it”. But has it lived up to my anxiousness and my expectations? I dare say it hasn’t.
Extremely well written, with a style only a great writer like Rowling can manage, The Casual Vacancy is a social exploration of manifold dimensions. The extreme realism in the characters leaves the reader in total awe at how good Rowling is when it comes to characterization. Not one of her characters can be said to be good, or bad. Every single one of them is a multi-dimension of deeds and misdeeds, goods and evils, and every single one of them can honestly be said to be purely human, and this, to my own consideration is the only masterpiece Rowling has achieved in writing this novel. The excellence and brilliance of character portrayal seems to cover only a bit of the slow tempo of the plot which does not seem, even by the end of the novel, to conclude and give you the sense of closure.
The book not only lacks wizards, wands and dragons, it also lacks the kind of magic that some of the most realistic great books have. The kind of magic that makes you cry, and leaves you attached to the world you are about to leave once you’ve finished reading. It did not give me that urge to want to read more, or know more about what is to happen in the small town of Pagford, nor the urge to wonder whether a movie will be adapted and not even the urge to hug the book and sleep next to it, afraid to let it go.
I left Pagford without a glimpse behind. I closed the book after I had read the last page, and stared into my room, wondering when J.K. Rowling’s next book will be out. Because although disappointment was what I had found in the recently published book, I am a firm believe in magic, and that it will return in one form or the other in the words of this great writer.