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Airplane Reads: The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

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Each month Cailin helps you decide: Do I want to take this book with me on the plane?

My love affair with all things Harry Potter related began at an early age. Friends of our family from England recommended a children’s book by a relatively unknown writer. The book was about a boy wizard and his story was taking the countryby storm. My mom purchased The Philosopher’s Stone in paperback for me and by the first chapter I was hooked.  For me it was never just about my fascination with a boy wizard, but JK Rowling’s ability to write exceptionally detailed stories with themes that translate to the world we live in today.

For the majority of fans, the end of the beloved series was met with sadness and a longing for more of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures.  You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I learned that JK Rowling would release a new book for adults, titled The Casual Vacancy.

The story is centered on the small, quaint English town of Pagford. When long-time resident and town council member, Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly passes away, the town and its residents are propelled into a series of events that will change their lives forever.  There are numerous characters ranging from seniors to teenagers that provide the story’s narration. This was my favorite part of the book, as the reader was provided a different perspective of events depending on the character’s age, gender and social class.

The Casual Vacancy is certainly more mature than her earlier works and strong themes are presented throughout the book that JK Rowling executes flawlessly.  Situated amongst the border of well- to-do Pagford sits a council estate aptly nicknamed “the fields”.   The theme of class is reoccurring during the course of the book, as the residents of Pagford resent those that live within “the fields”.   Class also contributes greatly to the overarching premise of cause and effect.  While class may separate the residents of Pagford and “the fields” it is the series of events that lead to a surprising and thought provoking event and eventually unites them all.

I have to admit; I did find this book extremely difficult to get into. While JK Rowling’s extremely descriptive writing style lends itself well to the story, I found that the narrative of chapters was a little drawn out at times.  Early into the book I did find myself questioning several plot lines. But like any great writer, Rowling manages to reveal their importance only at the very end.  I understand why JK Rowling wrote a book tackling such heavyhearted themes as social class, poverty, politics and death.

Books these days rarely have any social significance and I think that more should.  Changes within culture can only be evoked if people recognize issues and are inspired to do something.  The Casual Vacancy is a perfect example of how society has lost its way and that we must start caring for one another. If we have any hope of saving humanity we need to start lending a hand and caring for others in our own communities.  The Casual Vacancy is not just another fictional story, it’s JK Rowling’s vehicle for societal change.


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About the author

I’m an office worker by day & cook/baker/photographer/writer by night. I love all types of music despite my husband playing in a heavy metal band. Happily married, I enjoy traveling often with my husband much to the disappointment of our miniature dachshund Minnie. My favorite place in the world is Paris, France but Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will always hold a special place in my heart. Julia Child is my idol.

4 thoughts on “Airplane Reads: The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling”

  1. I really wanted to like this book but I couldn’t get into it at all. Like so many people, I was sorry to see the Harry Potter series end and was looking forward to seeing what J K Rowling came up with next. I was so disappointed by the Casual Vacancy. I didn’t like any of the many narrators, and it was pretty clear they were all leading miserable lives that were only going to get worse. I had faith the plot lines would eventually come together, but found I didn’t care. I soon gave up on the story altogether. If her goal was highlighting class issues and working for societal change, that’s admirable. But to succeed at those things, the author really needs to engage the reader, and at least in my case, she didn’t. I was very glad not to be stuck on a plane with nothing to read but Casual Vacancy.
    Karen McCann

  2. Very interesting, Cailin. I saw that this book was coming out and read the summary and just wasn’t intrigued enough to read it. I’m glad that she has drawn attention to these very important issues, and hopefully, even if people don’t care for the story line, they will remember what you remembered: care for each other. What a difference that would make. 🙂

  3. I am also a long-time Harry Potter fan, I remember reading the 1st, 2nd and 3rd books before any real craze around them blew up! Like others, I was really excited when I heard she was writing a book for adults, but so far I have only picked it up in bookshops and put it down again. I’m just not sure I’m going to enjoy it and I really, really want to! However, your review has inspired me to give it a go – I love writers like Ben Elton and Sebastian Faulks who address social issues, so maybe I will like this!

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