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The Casual Vacancy (REVIEW)

I had high hopes for JK Rowling’s first offering away from the world of wizards. And I’m glad to say she doesn’t disappoint.
The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy

As one of the country’s biggest Harry Potter fans (sad, but true) I had high hopes for JK Rowling’s first offering away from the world of wizards. And I’m glad to say she doesn’t disappoint. While she doesn’t have wands and brooms to rely on, she still manages to weave her magic into every page of The Casual Vacancy and delivers a brilliant, albeit shocking, story of a small town that’s not what it seems.

Pagford, a tiny British hamlet, is reeling after the untimely death of councillor Barry Fairbrother, whose passing has created a casual vacancy at the Pagford council. But while the village mourns, they also prepare to do battle with each other for control of the seat – with the fate of the town hanging in the balance.

In much the same way as in the Potter series, JK manages to create an entire other world, but instead of revolving around Hogwarts, the plot is set in a gritty reality, with sex, drugs, inequality, xenophobia, racism and a withering condemnation of the British class system all featuring heavily. JK’s skill has always been her character development, the ability to craft a pure soul with a dark streak, or a seemingly evil character whose goodness only comes out at the last moment.

In much the same way as she made Harry and Snape far more than ambassadors for good and evil, characters in The Casual Vacancy are well-rounded and multidimensional – and in true Rowling style, the majority of them will surprise and shock you during their development. JK has gone in with the intent of distancing herself from the Potter universe (although I can’t figure out why she named the central character Barry – one letter isn’t much difference!) and prove she can write about things that don’t revolve around a Dark Lord and a professor named after a bumblebee.

This is a fantastic adult book – but if you have a 12-year-old who is mad about Potter and wants to read this one say no; it is strictly adults only.

THE CASUAL VACANCY, by JK Rowling (Hachette, $49.99)

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