The Casual Vacancy By J.K. Rowling

Having read all the Harry Potter books and really enjoying Ms. Rowling’s writing I was dubious, like many other people, that she could transition to adult fiction. Now I will say that good children’s fiction should be readable for all and keep the interest of the reader without spells and potions. Well I can say that I was not disappointed at all.

This story is set in a small village in England and we are at once plunged into the story with the death of a local councilman. What we learn throughout the book is how polarized the council had become due to several issues, some of which were due to be voted on in upcoming meetings. The man who died was not only quite young but he left a widow and four young children. The town does rally around this family who go through most of the book relatively shell shocked. The entire story covers only a few days which is also remarkable.

The neighbouring village is a source of many woes to the council and we see into the lives of a few of the people who live in both towns and their children. What may seem petty and ridiculous to many have become major bones of contention for others.

The head of the council is a man who likes to believe he is the patriarch of the entire village. His wife is the secretary and he is trying to get his son voted on the board as well. That way he can basically control all that happens. He runs the local deli and voices his opinion whenever asked and even when it seems completely inappropriate. We get a glimpse into his marriage, his business partnership as well as daily life in town. During the book he opens a restaurant next door to the deli and employs a few of the local children, of whom we have met and seen into their lives as well.

I love the way the characters are developed in the book. We really see into their hearts and what they are thinking even if they are keeping up a bravado in front of others. Life is very difficult for several of the villagers and yet they keep pushing on and somehow surviving. There are sexual fantasies, encounters and flirtations some of which get a little gritty but not inappropriate for the times. Sex is viewed as a commodity in life today and it is no different here, unfortunately. We encounter bullying, abuse and awful marriages. People don’t think there is any way out of the situations they are stuck with and just go on. This really was a difficult book to put down and now I hope she is writing again.

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