I have always been a Harry Potter fangirl. Ever since I read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or the Sorcerer’s stone, US version) I dreamed about going to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and becoming a witch. Even now you can find posters, action figures and ‘the’ books all over my room. I have to admit I had a very hard time dealing with the fact that Harry Potter was over, and I didn’t even get my Hogwarts letter! So when I heard that my favorite author Joanne Katherine Rowling was writing a new novel I felt really excited. I actually bought the book two days after it was released here in Holland for far too much money, but it’s really worth the read.
Rowling got the idea for ‘The Casual Vacancy’ whilst flying all around the world for her last HP tour. She later said about this: “Obviously I need to be in some form of vehicle to have a decent idea, this time I was on a plane. And I thought: local election! And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work.It’s a rush of adrenaline, it’s chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this. So that’s how I know.”
As Rowling already told you, the book is about a local election. It’s the tragic story of Barry Fairbrother’s death. He dies in the first chapter of a burst aneurysm. Barry was an important member of Pagford’s Parish Council, fighting for ‘The Fields’, a not so popular local council estate with the methadone rehabilitation clinic Bellchapel. After his death there is a casual vacancy, and there are many candidates who want to fill in for him. The inhabitants of Pagford start a little war, that doesn’t stay within the limits of the election, but continues at home…
Barry Fairbrother was dead. Snuffed out. Cut down. No event of national importance, no war, no stock-market collapse, no terrorist attack, could have sparked in Shirley the awe, the avid interest and feverish speculation that currently consumed her.
Before I read the book I saw many reviews in Dutch papers. They were all genuinely shocked about the storyline. And I have to admit, it can be shocking. With subjects such as incest, rape, OCD, adultery and drug addiction I wouldn’t recommend this book to the new eight-year olds with their plastic wands, but I surely think the first generation Harry Potter readers would enjoy ‘The Casual Vacancy’. And not only fans will enjoy it. Rowling uses her famous writing style of describing every small detail without it becoming boring or frustrating. She sucks you into the story and makes sure you can’t get out until you’ve finished the book. An election seems like the most tiresome subject in the whole world, but she can turn even that into a thrilling history that has you on the edge of your seat. I do have to say that it can be unrealistic at times. So many problems, illnesses and abuse in about five families really is fiction, and she could’ve used more manipulation and less gossip, but in my opinion, that wasn’t really bothering. The evil humor and the fairytaleness of it all makes it a Harry Potter for adults.
I know it may be a disappointment for the people waiting for HP 8, or another fantasy story, but I think they have to get over themselves, grow up and just give it a go.