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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

[The Casual Vacancy] Underestimated masterpiece of the author of Harry Potter saga with only one problem

The Casual Vacancy, the first adult novel written by J.K. Rowling has, of course, anything to do with wizard, flying broomsticks, spells, or magical owls delivering messages. It actually is one of the most down-to-earth stories I've read in the past few years. All the characters are so muggle-like and each of the characters has at least a personal malfunction, defect, or sense of inferiority, or all of them.

There is no similarity between Rowling's latest novel and the arguably most famous wizard series, except for the extraordinary number of characters. However, I don't agree with many of the book reviews by famous journalists, on their critics about characters in the novel. A lot of them find that there are too many characters  who are over descriptive and repetitive.

Well, it is true that there are a big number of charters who take significant parts in the story, but you will remember each of them, as each individual is so different from one another. In addition, Rowling's description of a banal individual's inner conflicts and agony was extraordinary. Narratives of each character were so truthful and vivid that you end up feeling empathy with each of them, even though none of characters is particularly attractive. Nonetheless, if you see their inner psyche, each of characters is quite understandable. There is not an absolute evil or angel. You will go through the emotional life of each character. and each of them has their own excuse and reason to behave as they do, which is, for me, remarkable since you, as a reader, feel that there is no right or wrong person in the novel. 
That is the main difference between and Pagford, the  name of the imaginary town in the Casual Vacancy, and Harry Potter's Hogwarts where there were clear distinction between the righteous and evil.

It is true that all the live characters are fairly horrible or miserable. None of them are particularly attractive either, which is a quite a problem for a novel. As a reader, you tend to feel imaginative empathy with a character, and attach to a specific character. In the Casual Vacancy, it is not easy to have empathy with a character. Probably the only character that anybody would feel empathy with must be Barry Fairbrother who  se death in the very beginning of the novel caused the biggest war Pagford has yet seen, surrounding the seat that had been occupied in the parish council of the town. 
In my opinion, missing a likable character would be the only problem of this novel. 

There is no clear winner at the end of the wars between uncomprehending parents and wounded adolescents, desperate wives and insensitive husbands, rich incumbents of the town with poor residents of outskirt of the town.

Even though the story starts with a death and ends with a funeral, there are a couple of healing that warm readers' hearts, especially my heart :): healing of wounded hearts of the adolescent daughter and her elite mother, Sukvinder and Parminder, and that of a perplexed son with a huge ego and his obsessive compulsive disordered father, Fats("Stuart") and Colin("Cubby").
The faint smell of these two restoration of the fundamental relationships at the end of the novel are still lingering in my heart.

A great story to read! My opinion on J.K. Rowling is unchanged after this novel: Rowling is a genius of liberal arts.

The Casual Vacancy


  1. I spotted this book in a bookstore just a couple days ago and for a minute I thought about getting a copy since the author of the book caught my eyes. But I left without a copy because I had no info about the book, so it was interesting to see your review of it. Since the last time I took your recommendation on a book, Open by Agassi, was a huge success for me,(it's one of my favorite books now) I think I'll give "the casual vacancy" a try.
    I always enjoy your posting so much!

    Have a nice week :D
    (Rafa's back on court. Yay! )

    1. Hi julia,
      I find the book very well written. First couple of chapters could be confusing due to quite a number of characters appearing. But, as you move on, you will observe hollow wounds of each character. If you like observing different people and conflicts of interests, you will like the book.
      Thanks for liking my posts. I appreciate it. Have a nice evening!