The day, the latest book by J.K.Rowling, The Casual Vacancy came out, I begun reading it. It has gotten critical reviews, but this has not stopped me in the least from being more then curious. In a way it encouraged me....
I was pulled in from the first pages, with a strange power, which had less to do with the plot of the story at first, but more with the language.
The setting is a small English town, picturesque at the first glimpse. The death of a citizen and councilman evokes the feverish actions to secure the vacant seat in a power struggle, which leaves many townspeople in its wake. There is a war raging, not only around the council vacancy, but also between families, between teenagers without much outlook and across the society at large. We look into a mirror and the reflected image is powerful if not downright ugly.
With the clinical precision of a surgeon, Rowling dissects, she cuts open festering wounds, drains the pus, to make a healing process possible. These are wounds many would rather leave alone. I applaud her for this and admire her form.
Her language is harsh, bordering on the vulgar, but that only adds in my opinion to the truthfulness of the novel. This is not the J.K.Rowling world of Harry Potter. It seems to be the opposite end of her story world spectrum. Where the Potter series shows us a magical world, a world where young people, filled with powers and determination reach their worthy goals, and good fights evil successfully, here we find a realistically drawn, egotistical society, often careless adults, with barely camouflaged ugliness, trying to realize their questionable intentions at any cost and lost teenagers, without much hope of a future worth living for. There is bullying, there is calculated 'love' and abuse of power. There is violence and many lies. Only in the end she shows, although not a happy ending, a possible way out. A redemption.
Until the end I was not really interested in the Council seat squabbles of the townspeople, but in Rowling's masterful art of writing and her psychological insights. The story unfolds stronger and more interesting towards the middle and end, but her way with words kept me going from the start. I did not regret the time.
I was moved in the end and the book and it's message has not let me out of it's grip since I finished the last pages. I keep thinking about it.
True, the book is filled with a language hard to stomach at times, but nevertheless a rich one and I could sometimes see the old, familiar Rowling spinning her tale and there were moments, when I instantaneously made a Potter parody out of some lines. There is her dark humor, Rowling writes with kindness about her fellow citizens. The book struck me with it's honesty, a clear vision of the state of our society and the setting, which, of course, can be anywhere, my own small American town included. It fits in, right here, right now, and if some descriptions seem overdrawn it's for the better.
I would strongly recommend this book, also for teens. It would be appropriate school reading from 10th grade on. It should encourage many discussions and food for thought. Perhaps more then this. A change.
Please, go on and read it!
Image through amazon.com