An ordinary writer might have been satisfied with penning an extraordinarily successful series of books that earned her a worldwide following, riches enough to secure billionaire status, and all the honors that society can bestow. Or at least not turned her talents to a work sure to dismay or repel many of her followers and risk the opprobrium of critics. But J. K. Rowling does just that with her first post-Harry Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy.
The action is triggered by the death of Barry Fairbrother, council member for a small English town, who dies on the second page of the book, thereby leaving an open seat (the “casual vacancy”) on the council, and throwing into play the hopes and schemes of dozens of people with a stake in the future of a low-income housing development and the addiction clinic that serves some residents. That development, The Flats, is viewed by some as an embarrassment and a drain on the resources of the village. A few others are committed to the cause of serving the needs of that community, including its junkies and others who have fallen between the cracks. Dozens of people find themselves drawn into the situations created by the effort to fill the seat. The plot takes us through petty political scheming, website hacks, troubled marriages and relationships, failing business ventures, mental illness, teenage angst and lust, heavy drinking, stark poverty and degradation, child abuse, rape, and death.
The cast of characters range from the elite, such as doctors and lawyers, through merchants, an assistant headmaster, and social workers, to hard pressed addicts and the young people who have no one else to care for them. But at the center of the story is Krystal Weedon, daughter of heroin addict Terri Weedon, and Krystal’s four-year old brother, Robbie. Krystal and Robbie’s father(s) are unknown. Despite her situation, Krystal has a vision of how life should be and a touching devotion to her little brother. Barry Fairbrother was one of the few people who took pains to afford her an opportunity to taste pride in accomplishment. Kay Bauden, social worker from London, goes above and beyond the call of duty to look after this troubled family and work for the continued existence of the addiction clinic.
At a tad over 500 pages with many subplots to launch and resolve, the book demands some commitment at the outset. The final outcomes of all these story threads are very much in doubt until the very end, by which time the book has long since become a page-turner. Other challenges to the reader include unflinchingly authentic dialog, some of which might seem offensive, and sexual scenes that one may not wish to linger over. Yet every word of it has its place.
Yet the book is not all grim. Rowling’s descriptions of a sunrise or the weather can be almost lyrical. And she has a keen eye for the droll aspects of life and her characters’ sometimes maladroit pursuit of their goals. We find ourselves chuckling at her characters’ witticisms, some quite coarse, but completely apt for the occasion at hand.
Altogether, the reader’s investment in time and effort will be well rewarded.
I admit, I give up, I surrender!! Rarely do I give up on a book. I plod on even if I am not overjoyed by the writing, the plot, etc. But, life is too short & I have too many book to read to spend any more time on this book. This author has gone from writing the most interesting wizardry books ever, to writing about the most boring town in the world filled with the most boring people in the world. It is just not interesting!! With all of the vampire and witch books out there, why didn't she dip her toes into something for adults with some fantasy- I find this to be a book of filth and will NOT read or recommend it to anyone. I hope that JK Rowling realizes that it isn't filth or profanity that sells to adults but rather a well written book, with a good plot. Not recommended....Continua
J. K. Rowling is an expert in portraying troubled teenagers. They are more sensitive and perceptive than the adults expect them to be. It’s the adults who are buried in their own problems so deeply that they don’t know that their children can really see through their thoughts. I wish I won’t forget this if I have my own teenage kids one day....Continua