Review: The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
It's been a while since my last book review; one of my new year's resolutions was to read a book every two weeks. Needless to say, that did not work out as planned. I finished this book about end of February, which basically makes this resolution as meaningless as statements like "let's meet up for coffee soon".
Although I do have to say that I'm quite impressed with myself for working up the energy to even write this post. My lovely neighbours have been doing some construction work for the past fortnight or so. I have no idea what kind of improvements can be made in a ghetto building like ours but it's nonstop from 9 am everyday; not really sure when they call it a day because I've been leaving the flat as soon as I can get my shit together (after cursing the world for 30 minutes and failed attempts to strap a pillow to my head). I can understand why noise is a torture method at Guantanamo now. I do thank god that the guy doing the renovations is not a fan of the Teletubbies theme song though.
The Casual Vacancy is about a small, picturesque town in England and the many stunted, disturbed, and unbalanced people that live below its surface. The story unfolds around a death of a popular parish council member, Barry Fairbrother; his death unravels a number of longstanding political issues and personal rivalries within the small, suffocating community. The main conflict deals with the class tension surrounding the presence of a community that lives in a public housing area and its corresponding drug rehabilitation facility. As the town is divided over whether or not these individuals should remain in the town's constituency, suppressed ill-feeling is exposed and everything falls apart. It paints a rather bleak picture of what lies behind the illusion of happiness that we all try to construct for others.
It's difficult to accurately explain the plot of the book because it's definitely very character driven. The book is essentially a long character study that really delves into the intricacies and complexities of family life, community dynamics, and individual demons. Each character is fascinating in his/her own way; there are so many dysfunctional relationships that you start to question whether or not we're all just living a lie. Not to say that the book was completely depressing. There are lighthearted moments to intercept scenes of rape, domestic violence, and heroin abuse. This is definitely an adult book, possibly adults who want to learn about how not to raise children.
I think it's quite unavoidable for reviewers to draw parallels to Harry Potter. I haven't read a Harry Potter book since I wore flared trousers so I really can't remember much. The Casual Vacancy did feel quite clichéd and melodramatic in some parts, which reminded me a bit of Harry Potter (please excuse if you're a massive fan). There aren't many positive things I can say about the ending. The climatic moment felt like it was taken out of a soap opera and the last scene was almost as terrible as the epilogue of the last Harry Potter book.
But overall, I did enjoy the book; the dialogue was often amusing and it's just thrilling enough to keep you reading. I'm undecided about whether or not to read her other book The Cuckoo's Calling. Has anyone read it and if so, what do you think?