Lauren Anderson thinks The Casual Vacancy is worth more than a casual glance.
Published on 27 September 2012, JK Rowling’s non-Harry debut is ripening at six months old. Everyone has read the reviews – dark, slow-moving and definitely not for children – but considering Rowling’s huge following, it amazes me how few people at UTS have actually read the book.
Taking place in the British village of Pagford, the novel revolves around the death of Parish councillor Barry Fairbrother and the subsequent election for his council seat. Boring, right?
Wrong. Filled to the brim with sex, drugs, adultery, self-harm and crumbling marriages, this book will satisfy your hunger for scandal. Through short chapters and a multitude of perspectives, we weave between the secret lives of social workers and solicitors, doctors and deputy principals. We experience first-hand the disturbing fantasies of middle-aged mothers and the hormone-induced habits of teenagers. Not to mention the website hacking that thrusts these secrets into the public domain.
Most of the characters are abhorrent; you read with fascinated disgust through the prejudice and domestic abuse, but by some miracle Rowling keeps you rooting for them… most of the time. The teens evoke the greatest empathy, after all, they are one of Rowling’s strengths.
It might be clichéd to take an event and tell it from multiple perspectives, but JK Rowling executes it perfectly. Her ‘sarcastic fairytale’ narrative voice is ever present in this novel and yes, it is dark, but it is also brilliantly witty.
This book is not for the faint-hearted. It will fling you through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. When you turn the final page, you will feel like you’ve unintentionally created a horcrux. Masochists will love it.