Monday, November 05, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

Vaguely Spoilery

In the first thirty pages of The Casual Vacancy, I must have read words like penis, erection, vulva, breasts and all sorts of "adult" words several dozen times.  It was wildly advertised that J.K. Rowling's new novel was for adults, but just in case the reader didn't know, she makes it obvious right away. 

If the beginning of the book moved like the middle and the end, I would have liked The Casual Vacancy a lot more.  It wasn't a story I expected. It was rough and violent.  It wasn't tempered by magic like Harry Potter.  Though, I think people sometimes forget how dark Harry Potter actually is.  His parents are brutally murdered by a megalomaniacal serial killer.  He is taken in by relatives that treat him like a burden and obviously don't want him.  There is bullying.  There are slaves.  There is war. So many people die.  The magic is what makes it less scary; there is no magic in Casual Vacancy. This is reality.

There was a lot of setup and character introduction in the first fifty pages.  Maybe it was more. It actually reminded me very much of a Stephen King novel.  He often introduces loads of characters (just have them die brutally.) Rowling didn't give us one person to root for, to focus on as the "hero" of the tale.  She gave us several people, some you liked more than others, who felt very real and part of a community.  I think there was one real villain, however.  I could not find one thing redeeming about Howard Mollison.  I have to say, of all the characters, I really connected with Sukvinder on a personal level.  I've never gone to her extremes, but many of her problems brought back memories of my own high school/teenage issues.  I also wish that the Weedon's story wasn't so tragic and that Krystal and Robbie could have had a happy ending.

Everyone seemed so trapped in Pagford. This sense of being trapped actually reminded me of a specific Stephen King book, Under The Dome.  In both books, we have a big fat guy trying to control a small town (though admittedly, Howard is no where near as bad as Big Jim).  Everyone knows everyone!  That kind of community might drive me crazy.  Kay Bawden couldn't talk about her work without people figuring out who she was talking about!

I think a lot of the people in Pagford would benefit from a change of scenery.  Whether a move, or just a vacation, weekend trips to London!  Can you always exist the same small town for your whole life?  If you're like some of the people in Pagford, you might go crazy....  There was a lot of crazy in Pagford. Rowling did not disappoint.  She went into the darkest parts of a person's mind and pulled it out for us to see.  Rowling did not hold back.  She can still craft a powerful scene.

Rowling is a brilliant writer.  I enjoyed The Casual Vacancy immensely.  If you only really like sci-fi and fantasy type genres, this may not be the book for you.  If you just like to read a good story, then you'll enjoy the stories woven together in The Casual Vacancy.

Other Thoughts and Opinions:
Bridget's Books
The Blue Bookcase
Night Sky Reviews
Literary Musings
Tea and Text

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