Ever since J.K. Rowling’s announcement in February that she was going to be releasing an adult novel, the literature world has been dying to see if The Casual Vacancy would be as engaging as the bestselling Harry Potter series. We at Chic Darling were just as eager as everyone else to check it out.
The story begins with the death of Barry Fairbrother, an extremely influential representative on the council of Pagford, a small English village. As the residents pull together for his funeral and mourn with the Fairbrother family, it seems that Pagford is the ideal place to live and raise your children. Yet before Barry has even been laid to rest, two groups of residents are scheming relentlessly to put someone on the council who will vote on their side. The issue at hand is a methadone clinic that serves a low-income area of Pagford called the Fields. Some residents, including the late Barry Fairbrother, support keeping the clinic open and continuing Pagford’s jurisdiction over the Fields. The opposite view is taken by the Mollisons and their supporters, who want the barriers of Pagford redrawn to exclude the Fields and the clinic to be closed. Soon personal secrets begin to be released and the idyllic village slips into a quagmire of passive-aggressive warfare, with everyone including Pagford’s youth going up in arms against one another. The resulting story is one filled with poverty, deceit, drug use, and a look at what truly happens behind the closed doors of Pagford Township.
The most important part about reading this novel is to leave your expectations at the front cover. Even though Rowling is the woman who shaped many of our childhoods with stories of Harry Potter and his fight against evil, if you begin reading with her earlier works in the back of your mind, you will not enjoy it. Rowling has made it very clear in numerous interviews that this novel would be nothing like the Harry Potter series. However, if you’re able to begin the story with a completely open mind, it is well worth it.
The Casual Vacancy does begin slowly. There are so many characters to keep track of that it can be hard to keep them straight at first. Perseverance will pay off though, because once you get the hang of the relationships between the characters the story explodes. This book truly is brilliant in a depressing way, because it portrays real life as it really is- blunt and genuine.