The Casual Vacancy

So J.K. Rowling can write for adults, after all.

“The Casual Vacancy,” the sordid tale of politics and personality in the small town of Pagford, is the author’s first true foray into adult literature—although, let’s be honest, she already had adults reading her work when she was the queen of all things Potter. The book is engrossing—unwieldy at first, but once you get in, it’s difficult to put it down. If you choose to take it on, here’s a quick primer on the characters:

Barry and Mary Fairbrother: Barry dies at the outset, resulting in a “casual vacancy” on the Pagford parish council. Widow Fairbrother soon has the attention of …

Gavin Hughes, a solicitor who works with Miles Mollison and is the lover of …

Kay Bawden, a social worker with a teen daughter Gaia, who has moved recently to Pagford in hopes to establish a closer bond with Gavin. Gaia is friends with …

Sukhvinder Jawanda, a young teen that has turned to cutting herself in retaliation for the emotional pain inflicted by local teen jackhole “Fats” Wall and her mother, Parminder, a GP who was secretly in love with Barry, even though she’s married to a hot surgeon. Even …

Samantha Mollison, Miles’ wife and the owner of a lingerie shop thinks Vikram is a hottie. Of course she also thinks the boy band her daughter Lexie loves is full of hotties. It’s pretty apparent Sam is a little restless in her marriage. But when you’re married to …

Miles, who works with Gavin, and is the son of local deli owner and fattie Howard, who lords over the parish council, you’d be restless too. The Mollisons are pretty intent on running …

The Weedons out of town. Krystal is the town bad girl, her mom Terri is a junkie, and little 3-year-old Robbie just needs his nappy changed. Krystal wants a better life, and the …

Walls’ son “Fats” may be the ticket. Fats may be a sociopath — who knows. But his dad Colin is the headmaster at the local private school, and his mom plays counselor there as well. It’s probably not a good idea that

Andrew Price spends so much time with Fats, especially since his home life with rage-aholic dad Simon isn’t that wonderful.

I just saved you about an hour of going back and forth for the first 100 pages, asking, “Who was that again?” And lest you think I gave too much away, trust me — I didn’t even scratch the surface.

A number of the adults mentioned above see fit to put their names in the hat to fill Barry’s spot on the parish council, at a time when the future of Pagford hangs in the balance—all because of a little neighborhood referred to as “The Fields.” As mentioned earlier, politics and personalities take hold, and the ending is, well … heartbreaking. Dumbledore does not save the day. Where is that damn gillyweed when you need it?

Nevertheless, it’s realllly good. I like books that get under my skin the way this one did. My heart aches for the characters, and there’s nothing better than a solid emotional connection with something that you’re reading. Because the character development takes so long, I found it to be solid and grounding for the story. You can’t care if you don’t know these guys, and that certainly isn’t a problem here.

There have been some reviews that suggest Rowling is trying too hard to shed her Potter past. I disagree. It’s a great read and well worth the time it will take to tackle almost 500 pages. No magic, but still spellbinding.

The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling

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