Whatever I choose to write about this book will probably be redundant since so many of the 4-star reviews here have already done Rowling's latest installment grand justice. The book, the characters, the plotting have been dissected, discussed, expounded on with great gusto.
Nevertheless, I'd like to add my two pennies' worth of thoughts on it. So here goes:-
This book is grey. As grey as grey can be.
It is an intense introspection on the bleakness of modern day urban life, the dynamics of various human relationships, which may seem ordinary on the surface but reveal complexities just beneath that showy exterior - where the basis of each one is some deeply personal interest and little else. Where every human action is steeped in the fundamental need for fulfillment of some ulterior, personal objective. And it is more about people of flesh and blood, like you and me, rather than a story.
Rowling takes her sweet little time(which costs many of the readers much of their patience) to establish an imaginary suburban neighborhood and its various quirky inhabitants - unscrupulous, prejudiced councilmen, hypocritical educators, pedophiles, violent, abusive fathers, problematic teenagers, promiscuous adolescent girls, drug addicts, drug dealers and pimps, victims of sexual abuse and rape, jittery, reluctant boyfriends, desperate, clingy girlfriends, emotionally absent husbands and sexually frustrated, disgruntled wives. None of which is new. But Rowling's achievement lies in the fact that she makes all her characters appear as humane as possible without ever pushing any one of them either into the realm of abject villainy or highly romanticized heroism. They have their share of good and bad traits. Although, noticeably, the bad in them is much more pronounced.
It goes without saying that Rowling has dished out reality in its most vicious and ugly form and left nothing to the imagination. She never tries to tone down the scale of the tragedy, everyday mundane life entails. The tragedies we either prefer to shove under the carpet or try and forget about by donning a mask of make-believe contentment.
Pagford is the dystopia of Rowling's imagination and each one of its residents is bizarre enough to be the subject of a psychoanalyst's case study.
In a simple sentence, The Casual Vacancy
is Rowling's exegesis on human nature.
Initially I had decided on a meagre 3 stars but towards the end, Rowling kicks up the ante by a few notches and gives us some solid plot developments. Her characterization is beyond brilliant and a major asset to this story-without-a-story, which does tend to drag in portions.
And it becomes quite a page-turner in the last 100 or so pages, as the very disturbing narrative hurtles towards an unavoidably tragic ending.
This woman gave a generation of kids (like me) a story so special and awe-inspiring, that it became a part of their lives forever. Not even for a second did I believe that she would write anything mediocre or substandard.
So people who are still dawdling over whether or not to read this book, please go ahead and do it right away. All Rowling requires of you is to exercise a little patience.
But despite everything, maybe....just maybe I was nurturing hope, in some obscure corner of my heart, of something life-altering and magnificent from her once again.
No, I wasn't naive enough to expect another Harry Potter but I wasn't expecting her ambitious adult novel to leave such a bitterly sharp after-taste in my mouth either.
That made me take away that 1 remaining star.
Sorry, Jo. Maybe next time.
Afterthought1:-I can't help but wonder, is TCV Rowling's commentary on contemporary England?
I certainly hope not.
Afterthought2:-Only Rowling could've added depth and meaning to a song like Rihanna's 'Umbrella' . I will always think of Krystal Weedon whenever I hear it. *sob*
And I'll try not to be a pathetic snob, Jo. I assure thee.