As an avid Harry Potter fan, I was most intrigued by the prospect of an adult novel from JK Rowling. It was this curiosity and not merely my love of the previous magic of the written word woven so carefully and delicately by JK Rowling that made me want to read this book. Having read a brief synopsis of it, the story caught my attention and I wanted to know more, as many bibliophiles do when they come across a new book. And I was eager to judge for myself before investigating any of the reviews available. To be perfectly honest, I did not know what to expect. I certainly did not expect another Hogwarts –type world of magic. What I did find on offer was entertaining, eye-opening and grounding. The world of Pagford, a small English village, is reeling from the death of councillor Barry Fairfield at the beginning of the novel. Following his death, Rowling delves into the subsequent infighting between everyone in the community from all walks of life and all ages.
I did not feel that there was a singular, standout hero of the novel as many books have, such as Peekay or Tandia in The Power of One and Tandia by Bryce Courtenay, or even Harry in Harry Potter, or in any other books that might be aimed at adults and children. From my broad study of literature and understanding of characters, I have found that people like the idea of a hero and an anti-hero, somebody that they can relate to and somebody that they want to hate. But The Casual Vacancy is as much about the anti-hero within humanity as the hero within everyone, and the human condition. The characters were all heroes in their own way, yet they were flawed and also anti-heroes in their own ways too. In trying to destroy reputations of people around them or gain things for themselves, they do not endear themselves to anyone, but perhaps towards the end, it is the selflessness of Sukhvinder trying to save Robbie, Krystal's little brother and Krystal's somewhat unorthodox attempts to get her brother away from their drug addicted mother, who ends up in ultimate tragedy for the family.
Both of these characters whom I felt had more guts and heroism than the rest of the cast combined were deeply flawed, as any human being is and their presence and acts illustrated to me that we can all be heroes, yet we are just as anti-heroic. In showing this aspect of the human condition, I feel that JK Rowling has created a novel that can speak to everyone. Readers can find aspects of themselves in one, some or perhaps all of the characters, and the fact that Krystal and Sukhvinder did not initially present as heroes illustrates that we also all control our own fates and that perhaps it takes a certain set of circumstances to bring out the hero within some of us, whilst others go about our lives ignoring impending doom.
I enjoyed this offering from Rowling and certainly its content is very adult and I would not allow children under the age of at least sixteen, or even eighteen, to explore it. I found it very well written as well. The shock value of the ending illustrates the fragility and unpredictability of life, and, the "casual vacancy" that death leaves, even if those it touches the closest are affected deeply by it.