Pensacola, Florida
Friday June 23rd 2017

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Review: J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy


By Terri Schlichenmeyer…

When youre gone, youll leave behind many important things.

Therell be photos and memorabilia, money, bric-a-brac, and property to divvy up. Great-grandmas china goes here, your mothers jewelry there, and a cherished belonging of your fathers will become someone elses cherished belonging.

When youre dead and gone, youll leave many things behind because you cant take them with you although, in the new novel The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, some wished that Barry Fairbrother had.

Everyone in the small England town of Pagford was shocked when Barry Fairbrother died of an aneurism. He was alive one minute, gone the next – but definitely not forgotten.

Thats because Barrys death left a casual vacancy on the Pagford Parish Council. In a normal year, that wouldnt have meant much but this year, Barrys vote on the issue of the Fields, a local housing complex, was an important one.

Political wrangling and dirty deals had allowed the Fields to be built on the outskirts of Pagford some sixty years ago, which was a sore point ever since. Always intended for lower-income residents, the area was once tidy and well-kept but was now run-down, garbage-filled, and filthy with a rehab clinic conveniently nearby. Disgusted, many Pagford residents wanted the Fields annexed to nearby Yarvil, the clinic closed, and the issue put behind them for good.

Barry, whod grown up in the Fields, knew how important it was for the development to remain a part of Pagford. Fields children were allowed to attend better schools in Pagford, which was one way out of poverty. He was adamant about this, and had been gathering supporters on the Council.

The casual vacancy, and the matter of filling it, could change everything. Pro-Fields Pagfordians wanted to fill Barrys seat with someone of the same opinion.
The majority, however, was glad to see one less bleeding-heart liberal on the Council.

Meanwhile, over at the Fields, a child was fighting for her life

Though its undoubtedly going to happen, it would be unfair to compare this novel to the Harry Potter books. Theyre worlds apart.

Author J.K. Rowlings character development is stellar (as usual) and, perhaps because she doesnt have the luxury of seven volumes, her story is tight and succinct. Here, we meet a dead man whose presence continually lingers through the lives of friends and enemies alike. Here, were plunged into a small-town filled with sniping residents, each desperate to keep a deep secret under wraps, each afraid that something is going horribly, uncontrollably wrong and quite often, it does.

This is a complex book with lots of layers, humor, pathos, and allegories everywhere. Readers may even find a timely message in this story of rich and poor and the politics that accompany them.

It should be immediately obvious that this is absolutely not a book for children, but grown-up HP fans will love it just the same. If youre up for a brick of a novel that isnt quite long enough, The Casual Vacancy is one youll have a hard time leaving.