Lea’s Book Review: Casual Vacancy

CASUAL VACANCY, released on September 27, fails to impress.

Courtesy of guim.co.uk

CASUAL VACANCY, released on September 27, fails to impress.

J.K. Rowling’s transition into adult novels was certainly not a gentle one. She opens “Casual Vacancy,” which released on September 27, with the violent death by aneurysm of parish councilor Barry Fairbrother. Much of the novel is centered around the passing of this respected man, as well as the political tensions that rise as a number of men attempt to take his place on the council.

Rowling draws the line very distinctly between this piece and her “Harry Potter” days. “Casual Vacancy” is rampant with an improbable combination of domestic violence, prostitution, and drug abuse. The only thing remotely fairy tale about it is the unlikelihood that all of the aforementioned would happen in such a tiny town.

The single goal of this novel appears to be to shock, and Rowling is certainly successful in that. The problem lies in the fact that the message, if there even is one, feels empty. Rowling lays the action on thick, until plot is all that the book consists of. This makes “Casual Vacancy” an interesting read, but of little literary value. The chills a reader can get from reading a beautifully phrased analogy or a dramatic monologue are nowhere to be found.

To top it off, just when the reader starts to feel some sort of emotional attachment to a character, she commits suicide. It’s such a typical television series move in a desperate attempt, yet again, to shock the audience. Rowling sacrifices any sort of character depth in favor of plot movement. Ironically enough, the fast moving storyline that she so obviously tries to achieve falls flat because she lets it circle for hundreds of pages upon pages. Despite the repetitiveness, however, Rowling is able to do what she did well with “Harry Potter,” which is to create a laudably detailed landscape of the settings and physical appearances of characters. However, most readers may not even get that far with this adult novel because they realize how incredibly tedious the plot is. They will set “Casual Vacancy” down, and pick up a “Harry Potter” instead.

The only thing Rowling proved with her newest novel is that she isn’t ready for the adult world of literature, which she so recklessly plunged into. Her writing style is decidedly shallow, much better suited to ages eight and up.

This book was good. J.K.