The Casual Vacancy – A Glimpse into Muggle-World Darkness!

Last updated on June 1, 2023
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  • Fair warning, this is no Hogwarts’ business. Therefore, if you’re a Potterhead like me, you have to leave your expectations and musings aside when approaching this book. The only way you will be able to appreciate J.K. Rowling’s venture into non-magical fiction is by forgetting about her masterpiece for a while.

    The Casual Vacancy (Review)

    The Casual Vacancy By J. K. Rowling Review Rating Summary Author

    Steeped in reality, The Casual Vacancy is not another book to indulge your escapism. Instead, it grounds you by talking about problems like addiction, bullying, abuse, and even suicide. One, this book is strictly for adults. Two, it is dark. So, if you are looking for a refreshing read, I’d probably not recommend this one for you. However, I would still vouch for its powerful narrative that proves Rowling’s writing skills yet again. 

    The Premise

    The plot revolves around a group of high-school kids and their families in a small English town. The picturesque landscapes and marvelous architecture aside, the town of Pagford reeks of snobbery, seething politics, and even sexual frustration. The story picks up after one of the few good people – Barry Fairbrother – unexpectedly dies of an aneurysm. The consequences of this death are beyond “normal”.

    The “Casual Vacancy” on the parish council

    Barry’s unforeseen demise creates room for several power-hungry characters to start fighting over the suddenly vacated seat on the local parish council. We get to see the filthy politics at play at the ground level. People who have known each other their whole lives suddenly begin to badmouth and backstab each other. Worse still, there is some mysterious hacker uploading everybody’s dirty secrets on the parish council’s official website!

    The derailed career of a promising row – club

    As we keep reading through the antics of all the despicable people at Pagford, it is almost surprising to learn that Barry didn’t have a dark past. He was rather a simple man at home and an encouraging mentor at work. So, when he is gone, all the young talent who were counting on him begin falling apart too. 

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    Of special mention is of course Krystal Weedon – a highly traumatized teen struggling to find her purpose of existing. With Barry gone, her purpose seems gone too. And we can’t help but want to adopt her and her baby brother. Among all the other disturbing anecdotes, Krystal’s stands out because it tugs at our humanity the most. I don’t believe in giving away spoilers. So, I’d leave it to you to find out the rest by reading the book. 

    Destruction of long established “cordial relations”

    Sadly, it is not just the politics at Pagford that are to be blamed for disharmony among “friends”. It is quite obvious that the people are narrow-minded in general and selfish to the point of becoming true villains. Doctors breaking the code of confidentiality, spouses turning murderous, parents abusing children, and old people being terrible role models; are just a few highlights of Pagford’s “close-knit” community. You will find yourself scorning at the hypocrisy and irritating behaviors as if it were all happening around you. That is what further enhances the appeal of the novel. 

    Inclusivity and Honesty – My Favorite Parts of the Novel

    Among the many qualities of The Casual Vacancy, I have to appreciate and highlight how Rowling has kept it inclusive and raw. The book ventures through the turbulences recurring in teenage minds while transcending the boundaries of race, color, and ethnicity. It even delves into the underbelly of the fictional town, breaking the class barriers and introducing us to characters whom we would generally dismiss as the outcasts, the “anti-social elements”. It also doubles up as a satirical commentary on the smug British middle-class who seem too hell-bent on guarding their stone-age ideas of right and wrong. 

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    Read The Casual Vacancy For A Glimpse Into Muggle World Darkness

    Add to it Rowling’s remarkable sentence structure and you have the perfect recipe for literary satisfaction. You can hear each character speak and think in their individual styles. From the innocent ramblings of a child to the sinister plotting of a truly sick man, Rowling manages to capture the soul of all the characters almost flawlessly. 

    For instance, compare the two quotes below:

    “Fats was starting to think that if you flipped every bit of received wisdom on its head, you would have the truth. He wanted to journey through dark labyrinths and wrestle with the strangeness that lurked within; he wanted to crack open piety and expose hypocrisy; he wanted to break taboos and squeeze wisdom from their bloody hearts; he wanted to achieve a state of amoral grace, and be baptized backward into ignorance and simplicity.”

    “Sukhvinder wished that she could be more like Krystal: funny and tough; impossible to intimidate; always coming out fighting.”

    While none of the quotes is in active voice, they both do an excellent job of painting the intended picture. We can tell the difference between two psyches just by analyzing the sentence structures a bit closely. 

    On the one hand, is a rather thoughtful mind that seems disappointed in people and society. It is reflective and observant. On the other hand, we have a character that deeply admires and aspires to become like another. Also reflective and observant but at an entirely different level. 

    It is this variety in prose that often reflects an author’s ability to create true-to-life, believable personas to complete a story. And we can trust J.K. Rowling to deliver the same every time. 

    Verdict: The Casual Vacancy boasts of brilliant but upsetting prose that is entirely bereft of nonsense. It is an eloquent novel that displays a thorough understanding of human beings and the problems that continue to mar contemporary England. But more importantly, it is as if the author is holding up a mirror to us, making us rethink our choices and actions. As a reader, you would be forced to wonder how you could have inflicted social and emotional wounds too and been totally oblivious to it. At the very least, the book shows you the inner workings of varied minds that are suffering because of circumstances that are not entirely their fault. 

    I would reiterate that if you want to appreciate this book, you must forget for a while that it is coming from the same author who created the Harry Potter universe. It is nothing like the wizarding world but everything about the struggles that the muggles around us are battling every day. You can get the book here! 📖

    The Casual Vacancy
    The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling Review Rating Summary Author

    Fair warning, this is no Hogwarts’ business. Therefore, if you’re a Potterhead like me, you have to leave your expectations and musings aside when approaching this book. The only way you will be able to appreciate J.K. Rowling’s venture into non-magical fiction is by forgetting about her masterpiece for a while.


    Author: J. K. Rowling

    Editor's Rating:

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    Last updated on June 1, 2023

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