J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy had much to live up to and much to prove. It is her first novel that is not about a certain boy wizard, her first in five years, and her first targeted to adults. The author, however, has proven once more that her way of storytelling is a unique and mastered craft.
The Casual Vacancy starts off with the death of Barry Fairbrother, an important political figure in the little town of Pagford, which instigates a controversial political civil war that turns the little town inside out and upside down. Though the premise of a political death may promise a thrilling murder mystery – as some might first deduce – trust that the novel is thrilling in an entirely new sense of the word.
Sensitive themes such as rape, depression, racism, domestic abuse, drug addiction, et cetera are themes that have been, time and time again, sugarcoated to a point of irrelevance or exaggerated. The Casual Vacancy tackles those themes and much more with an air of raw truth, justice, and grace that makes the themes real and tangible—not simple story arcs or cheap plot twists that could be played with.
Moreover, the story gives readers something to hold on to in terms of characterization – there is no permanent protagonist or antagonist, as is the case with most political affairs. The narrative showed fluidity, a perfect snowball effect from the death of Barry Fairbrother. The title, despite its length, showed to be trimmed and tight; not a single sentence was out of place. Every bit of seemingly insignificant detail contributed to the larger scale.
Poignant and absorbing, The Casual Vacancy is an adult book for actual adults with minds beyond the gutter. Rowling may have moved on from the world of wand waving and potion brewing, but her work is, certainly, still magical.