Coming at the heels of one of the world’s most beloved franchises, it is safe to say that there was much pressure on Casual Vacancy to bewitch as much as the Harry Potter series. But here, I think, is where my initial error lied. I was expecting Vacancy to be as thrilling, as engaging as the fantastic Potter, but there are really no similarities between the two aside from the brilliant Rowling.
The book started out slow, I must admit, because it did not take place in a mythical paradise, but a little town in the English countryside. The characters were as mundane as the setting, so it took me a while to feel the desire to keep going through the pages as I normally would a Rowling book. But here I am, months later, with renewed reverence for the author.
The book circles around normal people and their everyday lives (no wands and flying broomsticks here), and how they slowly unravel following the sudden and tragic death of a beloved community member. The story opens up a window to human nature, to desires and hidden motives. It mirrors without accusation, a mere stating of facts that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Casual Vacancy is a tragedy. It will not leave that warm, fuzzy feeling we expect from a Rowling novel. It will make you disgusted, defiant, defeated. It will not make you yearn for Pagford. It will tell you that this could happen to anyone – to you, whether you like it or not. It will also make you realize that your actions, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can affect those around you; and it is those that you choose not to do, or not to say, that will have the utmost impact.
The story bears down on facades, on false images that people carefully create to hide their real selves. Those who do not bother to comply to these expectations of falsities, meanwhile, are scorned for their brazenness, hated for their honesty.
It is amazing what great lengths people willingly go through to continue their respective charades, unyielding – and terribly so – to all sense and compassion.
(Four and a half out of five)
Have you read Rowling’s most recent masterpiece?