This is j.K. Rowling’s first book for adults and her first book outside of the Harry Potter series, which was obviously what brought about her fame and success. Before you start reading this book, if you choose too, you should come in with no expectations and forget about the name on the cover. To enjoy this book, I really think you to let go of Harry Potter for at least a few days and take The Casual Vacancy for what it is. Initially, I was under the impression that this book was a murder mystery. I quickly chose to forget everything I thought I knew about J.K. Rowling as a writer and pretend this book had been written by anyone else. The only thing that this novel and Harry Potter have in common is that they are both very good. Whilst I would say that some of the strongest aspects of the Harry Potter are the construction of the plot and the world building, that’s not the case for The Casual Vacancy. World building is more important in fantasy, and the plot isn’t what drags you into this book unlike Harry Potter. Like in Harry Potter, the characters were made me love this book, but in a completely different way. Whilst the Harry Potter books were very much about the internal battle between good and evil in all of us. I think everyone had characters that they loved, even if they were flawed. Any of the characters in The Casual Vacancy would give you reason to detest them, but I thought they were all very real. I was impressed with the honesty it would have taken when writing the many characters in this novel, and even admired how Rowling wasn’t afraid to show the very worst parts of the people, without apologies.
I am big fan of the Harry Potter books, but somehow I was still impressed by the writing in The Casual Vacancy. There were honestly a few parts where I would put the book down and curse, because the writing was so impressive. I was very impressed and easily engrossed in the story. I was also impressed by how smoothly the novel transitioned through the different characters’ narratives. The multiple third person perspectives were handled expertly, and having so many characters could have easily made this book fall flat. Another one of its strong points was the deep emotional effect it had, and how well it presented the issues that were all at the heart of the novel. This is really a novel about poverty and prejudiced. And Rowling dealt with important issues that were obviously very important to her very well. After finishing this book, I felt sort of like I had been punched in the stomach, in the most heart breaking way. That sounds like a bad thing, but this is the type of story that should leave you feeling that way, if the writer is doing their job.
I haven’t read many reviews of this book, but I can guess what the main criticisms are. Firstly, this book is slower moving at the beginning, although it might feel that way in part because of all my anxiety over whether I would like this book by my favourite author. There were alot of swearing and things that you would never see in a Harry Potter book, like sex, drugs, rape, and abuse. I feel like most people are complaining about the swearing, but this is a book for adults, and based on the topic some of the people in this book didn’t swear. I feel like people will make a big deal about the writer of such beloved children’s book writing a very adult novel. But I was very impressed with how J.K. Rowling boldly departed from her former series in a very extreme way. If you want this book to be the next Harry Potter, then just skip it and re-read the books you already love. However, if you think you can read a great book by a great writer without any expectations, then The Casual Vacancy is a book that deals with unpleasant truths with fearless honesty.