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English department

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Praises and Worries for The Casual Vacancy

JK Rowling is known around the world for writing the Harry Potter series, which is a bestselling and one of the most popular book series in the history of literature. The Harry Potter series has been made into seven bestselling books and eight blockbuster films, and the world of Harry Potter even has its own popular website known as Pottermore. Since then, Rowling has been attempting to move on from the Harry Potter series by writing books for other genres and audiences, and her first attempt comes in the form of her first nonfiction bestselling novel for adults called The Casual Vacancy, published in September of 2012 by Little, Brown and Company.

The quote found on page seven (“‘Brace yourself,’ said Miles Mollison’) could arguably be said to the reader as he or she begins the novel. The Casual Vacancy is listed in the genre of a black comedy. It is a 503 paged, omniscient third-person point-of-view novel that takes place in a small town called Pagford and begins with the sudden and tragic death of a forty-year-old political leader named Barry Fairbrother. As the story progresses, readers soon learn how Fairbrother is connected to the rest of Pagford and its surroundings, how he impacted some of the individual people in town like Krystal Weedon as well as Pagford in general, and why his death is such a big deal to the townspeople. With each point of view provided we get a glimpse of each character’s personal life, the circumstances under which they live and—in the case of Fairbrother’s political enemies like Howard Mollison—what they hope to gain from Fairbrother’s death.

In the first two months since its release, Rowling’s new novel has very quickly become a bestselling novel around the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Unfortunately, readers begin to find themselves becoming disappointed when they find that they do not enjoy The Casual Vacancy as much as they enjoyed Harry Potter. What started as Rowling wanting to publish a new story and succeeding in that task quickly turned into the question commonly nowadays asked in the world of literature: should we as readers be JK Rowling fans or Harry Potter fans? The most important thing to remember when reading Rowling’s book is that readers should not expect an author to write books specifically for one genre or one audience; a writer’s talent lies not in the fictional world that he or she has created, but in how the writer tells the stories.

That being said, a few things that should be noted for the reader who wants to know whether or not they ought to read The Casual Vacancy is that a few of the themes brought up in the novel are quite dark, even compared to the Harry Potter saga. In The Casual Vacancy, readers find several mentions of brief language, rape, drugs, and prostitution. Also, the pacing in The Casual Vacancy is not as even as it could be and unless the reader can get through the first half of the book they are unlikely to be able to finish the book without getting frustrated.

Putting the negative thoughts aside, I actually liked The Casual Vacancy because of its writing style, dark portrayal of reality and characterization. Once again, Rowling shows off her flair in imaginative storytelling by developing her talent in her first adult novel, and each scene that takes place in The Casual Vacancy is crafted beautifully and artistically. The story itself works as a very basic satire of what life is really like. Whether we realize it or not, each person has a skeleton in his or her closet, skeletons that we pray nobody else would ever find out about, and Rowling illustrates examples of secrets we hide in each of her characters. The characterization of The Casual Vacancy is by far the best phenomenon found in the whole story. Each character found in the story is authentic and believable, and when reading from different points of view throughout the story each character seems to visibly come to life in the reader’s mind. This can be a problem at times, however, due to the fact that when switching points of view back and forth about five times each chapter, readers can get the other characters mixed up with each other sometimes if not careful.

Despite a few of the flaws that come up in Rowling’s new adult book, The Casual Vacancy is recommended based on the artistic writing style and outstanding characterization. However, if you wish to buy a copy of The Casual Vacancy, do not buy it simply because it was written by a bestselling author such as JK Rowling; buy it because you like the advertisements of the book as well as the plot and you genuinely want to know how the story ends.