Currently Reading: The Casual Vacancy
I'm going to try really hard not to mention Harry Potter at all. Oops, too late. Anyway, I'm reading J.K. Rowling's first novel since the Harry Potter series, and her first novel targeted towards adults. Obviously, many comparisons have been made. Is she "done" after Harry Potter? Can her work translate to an adult audience? Blah, blah. Bottom line is, the woman is a great writer. She has a knack for creating entire worlds with exquisite detail, whether its Hogwarts, or a small town in England. The Casual Vacancy takes a bit of time to get into. There are many, many characters, and it took me some time to remember who was who, who is married to who, whose children they are, where they work, etc. Now, I'm a little more than halfway through and the story has really come together for me. There are lots of moving parts, but everything is written beautifully.
The story begins with the death of a local man, Barry Fairbrother, who happens to sit on the Pagford parish council. His death creates a "casual vacancy" on the council, and several parties are seeking to fill his seat. Pagford is the type of small town where everyone's business is public fodder for gossip. People's jobs, marriages, affairs, and social lives are all up for discussion. The novel deals with issues of class, race, drug abuse, school systems, and local politics. There's no magic, but I do think that there is a magical quality to Rowling's writing style. What made Harry Potter so successful and beloved, in my opinion, was the character development and how the readers came to love the characters. Here, the characters are less than perfect, but instead, she paints a picture of very real people. You know these people in your town: the tawdry wife, the local politician, the girl from the wrong side of town. Say what you will, but I believe Rowling is an incredibly talented writer and I'm excited to finish this book and see what else she comes up with in the future.