The review below is of The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. I reviewed it on Goodreads on 11th October.
I’m not sure whether the format was designed to make me think of a Jilly Cooper novel, with all these characters introduced, and a mix of upper-class twits, well-meaning social workers, and rough-but-golden-hearted working class heroes, but that was the echo that haunted me throughout.
The concept of a pervasive Parish Council in an English town is quite foreign to me, having grown up in a Scottish city, and although unfamiliarity of location isn’t usually a barrier to enjoyment of a novel, I didn’t feel like I connected much to Pagford.
The Casual Vacancy is a commentary on social values which isn’t original, but still has a place. The self-satisfied Pagfordians – particularly the Mollisons (who are implicitly raging Tories) – are almost comedy villains, while the Weedons are caricatures of every right-winger’s bête-noir. Such extremes aren’t unknown, but felt a little contrived for the sake of the story. Yet they each have a purpose in this tale, which bowled along nicely and started to wiggle its way into my brain. The denouement surprised me and actually changed how I felt about the whole story; the absence of any neatly tied loose ends felt authentic and encouraged me to examine my prejudices towards the characters.
Overall it was well-written, and some techniques – such as the extended sections in parenthesis which extended our understanding of a character’s thoughts or background – were unusual enough to give a fresh feel to the novel. Recommended to others – but you should have no expectations as you pick up the book. Harry Potter it is NOT – but it is no poorer for that.