Strolling in Storyland

Welcome to a world where imagination runs free

The Casual Vacancy Review

on January 22, 2013

ImageThe story takes place in the small, suburban town of Pagford. When parish councilor Barry Fairbrother dies, his seat is vacant (thus the choice of the title) and conflict ensues before the election for his successor takes place. The bone of contention essentially  resides in “the Fields” a poor, local council estate some people would like to get rid of, but that Barry Fairbrother strongly supported while still alive.

In this novel, J.K Rowling boldly picks up her pen to deal with harsh themes, the most important ones being poverty, its consequences such as drugs, prostitution, violence, and society’s responsibility for the dire circumstances some are left to live in.

She beautifully paints a wide range of  fully fleshed out characters, whose characterizations are so craftily handled that it is impossible to see them as stiff, wooden objects. One must,  like  with Pinocchio,  readily acknowledge that they are “real boys” and girls, actual people. Teenagers against their parents, parents against  progeny, teenagers in love, fragile, desperate adults trying to act like adults, but not quite succeeding: there isn’t one protagonist that can hide  its deepest,  inner thoughts from the reader or escape judgment from its stern eye.

Furthermore, J.K Rowling’s manner of proceeding is very realistic: the amount of sugarcoating is close to nil. No saint, no hero, no victor, no messiah. Just a society at war where secret  truths are revealed sometimes humorously, sometimes in a cringe-worthy manner.

What did make me frown, I must say were the weaknesses the female characters dealt with. All the female protagonists, whether strong or feeble, held a certain amount of sickening dependence to a man. It was not so with the male protagonists whose weaknesses resided in themselves for the most part.

Aside from this drawback, which for me is an important one, I believe  Mrs. Rowling has created a masterpiece  which every author should emulate.

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