I almost didn't want to read this book, but it sat on my bookshelf staring me in the face, daring me to take a chance. I'm sure many people felt that way after loving Harry Potter so much. Writers just don't make the switch from youth to adult fiction very well.
The Casual Vacancy takes place in a small town in England called Pagford. And most of the novel revolves around how they are going to fill the empty seat on the Parish Council left when Barry Fairbrother dies at the outset of the story.
It took me a while to warm up to the novel. In fact, it caught me off guard. I can't exactly tell you when or why, but I started to care.
What J.K. Rowling does, and does better than most, is develop characters. They aren't just characters after a while. They become real. You love them. You hate them. But they are multidimensional. Her dialogue is effortless.
I was surprised to find many of the same themes from Harry Potter right in the center of 100% muggle Pagford. Pagford is responsible for an area called The Fields. The Fields is where all of the poor people live. Pagford wants to get rid of it's responsibility for The Fields and the addiction clinic that helps many of the residents. It's the full blood versus half-blood argument. We sure they are here, but they aren't really like us so they don't really belong here.
Characters in the novel struggle with guilt and secrets and desires. They are trying to find their voice in a place that seems to be run by just a few. Some are trying to upend the establishment while others are fighting to keep it the way it is. Basically, take away the magic and replace it with politics and real life.
When you have characters like Krystal Wheedon, Fats, and Andrew to love, to care for, to sympathize with, it is easy to get caught up in the story.
Don't get scared away by the politics though. Politics is a character in itself in this story. It is one element and not the main character either.
If you give this novel a chance, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
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