A Review Of The Casual Vacancy

One of the richest authors in history recreated the world of children’s fiction when she introduced the first of her seven books of the Harry Potter series in 1997. Fifteen years after her first novel, J.K Rowling returns with The Casual Vacancy, genres apart from Harry Potter.

The Casual Vacancy is a pure work of fiction, a tragic comedy, for adults, unlike Harry Potter that came under the genre of fantasy.

Let me make it Krystal clear for all those clawing to make comparisons between the two novels –none, according to me, can be drawn. The two books are completely different –it’s like drawing a comparison between Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series. Similarities can be sketched in the style that makes J.K Rowling, her uncanny ability to delineate teenagers and her sentences that make the characters come alive, but not between the two novels as such.

The Casual Vacancy, with a plot that is not the most daring, is set in the fictional town of Pagford. The death of the loved local councillor in the Parish of Pagford, in the first couple of pages of the first chapter, is what creates the “casual vacancy”. And it is precisely through this causal vacancy that the plot unfolds, not that there much unfolding to do in the story, and it is through Barry Fairbrother’s absence that the characters develop.

With multiple characters, it is safe to say that there is no one central plot that transpires, but the novel is an interlocking drama of all the many, many characters. There is Krystal Weedon, whose mother is a heroin addict and a prostitute (although debatable), is what her name suggests –inspite of her hard and tough exterior, it is only those who hold her that understand the value she beholds. While on one hand she allows the boys in her class to fondle her breasts, on the other hand she has unwavering love and affection for her three and half year old brother, Robbie Weedon. A multi-faceted character is what is Krsytal Weedon.

Then there is Samantha Mollison, the owner of a lingerie shop down in Yarvil (the mistrusted neighbour of Pagford), who is not only completely and utterly bored of her life, in the small town where everyone knows everyone, but also of the monotonous sex with her Husband, Miles, who is as devoted to his parents as I am to eating a sliver of cheese every morning.

There is Gavin, who is in love with his dead best friend’s wife; Gaia, the girl from London who is the object of every boy’s fantasy; Fats (Stuart), who yearns for authenticity and achieves so by shagging in bushes; Colin Wall, the lanky vice-principle of Winterdown, with an obsessive compulsive disorder that he has inappropriately sexually abused his children; Sukhwinder Jawanda who, tired of Fats’ abuses and her parents disapproval, takes to slashing her wrists; and they go on and on.

The intense, complicated and emotional interiors of these characters are painted on the canvas that is Pagford. Rowling taps the emotions of characters, which is her magical power, and splashes anger, jealousy, confusion, hollowness, sex, drugs, ambition, hypocrisy, in authenticity, rebellion and other colours of emotions on the pages of her book.

The Casual Vacancy isn’t an adventurous novel. The theme of the book is simple: people are constituted of complicated substances. The story, more or less, unfurls almost as gently as an evening breeze, but the ending is rather melodramatic. The novel ends on a melancholy note, well at least I closed the book with a heavy feeling in my heart. All in all, The Casual Vacancy is good read, where turning the pages is anything but a burden.

Shreya Kalra

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