J.K. Rowling, acclaimed author of the “Harry Potter” series, is back with a new novel, “The Casual Vacancy.” But for this novel, you’ll have to put your wands away.
Rowling took the new novel as an opportunity to do everything she couldn’t do in “Harry Potter,” a children’s series. “The Casual Vacancy” is an adult novel full of F-Bombs, drug use and sexy British scandal.
“I just needed to write this book. I like it a lot, I’m proud of it and that counts for me,” Rowling said in an interview for “The Guardian.”
“The Casual Vacancy” is set in a rural town in modern day England called Pagford. The town is rocked by the sudden death of Barry Fairbrother, who leaves an open seat on Pagford’s town council. The town is politically torn between those who want to separate the Fields, a poverty-ridden side of town that is home to drug addicts and bad seeds from Pagford, and those who want to keep it.
Several townspeople jump at the opportunity to take Barry’s vacant seat, which causes the ghost of Barry Fairbrother to intervene.
Rowling narrates Pagford by observing a handful of dysfunctional characters like, Samantha, the middle-aged woman that pines for her youth (and youthful boys), Krystal, the teenage daughter of a heroin addict/prostitute, and Cubby, the principal of the local high school who is determined to protect the Fields after the death of his best friend.
Rowling has a distinct pattern to her writing. For about three-quarters of her novels, there’s a steady buildup of character development and plot thickening before, in the final quarter, there’s an explosion of events that leaves the reader stupefied.
During the first week, “The Casual Vacancy” became the 15th top selling novel from 2012 and within a month, sold more than one million copies.
The media is raving about “The Casual Vacancy,” and not all of it is good. A family of Sikh’s in Pagford has caused a controversy. Many Sikhs appreciate the accurate portrayal of how Sikhs are racially discriminated against while some Indian officials, like Avtar Singh Makkar, want the novel banned in India.
“The novel contains moments of genuine drama and flashes here and there of humor,” wrote the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani. “But it ends on such a disheartening note with two more abrupt, crudely stage-managed deaths that the reader is left stumbling about with whatever is the opposite of the emotions evoked by the end of the ‘Harry Potter’ series.”
Rowling took a relatively boring topic, like small town politics, and transfigured it into a fast pace and fun novel.