At the end of September, J.K. Rowling released her new book, “The Casual Vacancy” to a world patiently waiting to see what she would do after authoring one of the most famous series ever written, “Harry Potter.”
This new novel is a complete deviation from what we are used to getting from Rowling. From writing about teenage witches and wizards, the plot of Rowling’s new book is surprisingly…normal. Spoiler alert: there is no magic to speak of within its pages.
The story begins with a death of Barry Fairbrother in the small English town of Pagford. Fairbrother held a powerful seat on the local parish council and with his death comes a fight to fill his spot. This empty seat is familiarly called a “casual vacancy.”
The novel seems a little disorienting at first because immediately following Fairbrother’s death, Rowling describes reactions from many members of the community. These introductions seem random, but it is slowly revealed how closely knit this community really is soon after. Some of them hated Fairbrother, while others remember him fondly.
Small-town politics are only a cover for the real story conveyed in this novel, as it is one that follows human emotions and behaviors, developing through the effects of certain societal circumstances.
Even before the publication of “The Casual Vacancy,” Rowling faced a problem. Due to the fame she acquired from “Harry Potter,” it could be hard to become successful from other novels. However, there is a glimmer of hope. “The Casual Vacancy” is in its second week atop U.S. bestseller lists.
However, after the incredible world created by Rowling filled with wands, potions and magic, “The Casual Vacancy” does fall a little flat. Going from Hogwarts to a tiny town tucked deep inside England struggling with small-time politics leaves me craving more.
To Rowling’s credit, it is a great leap forward for her transition into writing adult fiction. The novel deals with issues of rape, suicide and drug abuse. This is not the Rowling we remember from our childhood. “The Casual Vacancy” is a vehicle in which Rowling can explore adult themes that she could have never touched in “Harry Potter,”which may take some time to perfect.
One aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed is Rowling’s superb character development skills. Each character had a distinct personality that developed nicely. This is impressive considering she did this in only 500 pages rather than the seven volumes of “Harry Potter.”
All in all, I recommend this book. Rowling, through the magic she created in Harry Potter, gave us many fond memories for us to grow up with. But it is now time for us to support her as she branches out and experiments with different styles of writing. If Rowling didn’t have such high expectations as an author, critics would have welcomed this book as a captivating and complex look into small-town politics and human behavior. I praise Rowling for finally taking those first steps outside of “Harry Potter.” And maybe soon we will be saying, “Harry who?”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ellie Patterson at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org.