Like most people I know, I jumped on the Harry Potter train. I read the series, saw about half of the movie adaptations and I'm eager to visit Universal Studio's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I enjoyed the stories, but I must confess that I didn't really think of J.K. Rowling as a writer beyond the Potter Series.
I'm not a huge fan of YA Fiction, so I was eager to see what Rowling would do with adult literature. I bought The Casual Vacancy several months ago and it sat on my Kindle as I chose to read other novels ahead of it. Finally, a few days ago, I started reading it.
I could not put it down.
The Casual Vacancy is a million times better than Potter. It's hard and probably not fair to even make a comparison. I don't mean to downplay what she did with Potter, as those books were aimed at a different audience (and a series that I enjoyed), but The Casual Vacancy is just so much more substantial in emotion and themes. It's a story that makes a strong statement about society and one that lingered with me.
The Casual Vacancy follows the lives of several citizens living in the English town of Pagford. When council member Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly, the town is divided over who will fill his vacant seat. Fairbrother's death comes when the town is trying to decided if it wants to change its boarders to exclude a set of council estates that is seen as a blight on the community. Fairbrother is a success story, having been born in the council area, but having overcome his disadvantages to become a respected member of the community. Prior to his death, he championed the council estates and was working on a newspaper article highlighting a teenager that he was mentoring, a girl from a very troubled family. His death comes as a welcomed opportunity to those who want to seize control of the town, bringing a range of citizens stepping forward to run for office. Everyone has an opinion, but few people want to give real help to the people who need it most.
Rowling's story is highly upsetting with a completely shocking twist at the end. It's very adult in themes and tone, which might be jarring to some of her fan base. Even though the book left me feeling incredibly sad, I liked the grit and hard truths that she exposed. The story deals with the biases and stereotypes that people have regarding others of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
The Casual Vacancy is a riveting story. I felt both emotionally wrecked and uplifted when I finished it. Stellar. I hope that Rowling writes more adult literature in the future, she has such a talent for storytelling.