So, you’ve probably heard… JK Rowling wrote a novel for adults. Not an adult novel (nudge nudge, wink wink) but a normal novel that adults would buy.
Apparently she has taken a bit of a pounding in the press for it too. It is called “The Casual Vacancy” and is about the minutiae that make up the lives of a group of people in a small village in the English midlands and their battles over… well, everything.
If you doubted whether she can write a novel like this, you’ve got to ask yourself what you were thinking. The woman wrote 8 massive tomes in the Harry Potter series. Clearly, after that much practice, she can t least write. And yes, she does it here, well.
At first her slightly smarmy, quintessentially Englishly condescending tone got to me. It’s like the voice she uses in Harry Potter, but even more superior. But I persevered and realised that this is without doubt one of the devices she employs in the book.
And let me tell you, this book s DEFINITELY not for kids. There is not one nice person in the cast. The voice is one of the ways Rowling appears to go about unveiling every single person’s foibles, insecurities and mostly, arrogance.
There is no Hermione Granger or Harry Potter here. The character are unremittingly, irredeemably not nice. Even the central (dead) character that sparks the action of the book is revealed as deeply flawed and possibly repugnant.
So, a guy dies. He is on the Parish council. The council is trying to get a working class council estate out of their jurisdiction. A new council member is needed that will back this cause against the rest of the council who do not want this to happen. That loosely is the situation.
From here on it is war: adult against adult, child against adult, child against teach and against fellow child. I began to wonder if Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series as a fantastical flight from an England she actually despises. If that were true, A Casual Vacancy would be an undisguised attack on a society and a social system gone wrong. A place where everyone is motivated by overriding self interest and conceit, where not even a baby boy can be looked after properly or judged as innocent.
Lemme warn you, it’s a tough read, but worth it. Let no-one say that Rowling is a one trick pony! This is the real deal.