“Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for the most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.” (the first line of The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling)
The question on everyone’s mind must be: is The Casual Vacancy as good as Harry Potter? The answer is, unfortunately, ‘no’. In this book, J. K. Rowling seems to be trying to distance herself from HP and Young Adults as much as possible, and thus it is filled with gritty social commentary, grey morality, and a tragic, hopeless conclusion. It reminds me of when I heard that Daniel Radcliffe appeared naked in a play to show, presumably, that he wasn’t a child anymore. This is J. K. Rowling’s naked play, proving that she can write something that isn’t whimsical, playful, or uplifting in the slightest.
The Casual Vacancy isn’t necessarily a bad book in its own right, though Rowling lets her morality get in the way of the literature too frequently. Yet, the book becomes perplexing and disappointing when compared with its predecessor, Harry Potter. When this comparison is made, one can’t help but intuit that it draws a distinction between which books are appropriate for adults and which ones suit kids. Apparently, kids deserve well-crafted stories with cheerful, buoyant endings, while adults can’t do without the whole gambit of rape, addiction, self-harm, and pointless death. Why couldn’t Rowling have just written a story for adults? Why do we have to be taught a lesson, or shocked?
HP popularized the practice of adults reading books written for young people, and it gave us the chance to get back to the basics of reading: the story. This was especially important because so much of literature for adults today relies on the shock-value of sex, violence, and language. So, to me, the great tragedy about this book wasn’t its bitter ending, but the fact that Rowling doesn’t realize what she did for adult reading by writing HP, and that she felt she had to go and reverse it now.
This was my fully honest and deeply felt review, to see something a bit more objective, look and my review at Provo Library’s Blog. If you’ve been following the criticism at all, you’ll know that this is a very controversial book – the best way to decide on its quality is to read it yourself.
Buy – Borrow – TBR OR Avoid
Ending: Tragic and expected