I know, I know. There are hundreds of reviews out there that warned me against doing exactly that. “This book isn’t Harry Potter; it’s nothing like Harry Potter. Don’t read it just because it’s written by J.K. Rowling.”
Well, I wasn’t looking for more Harry Potter, but I did hope that the elements that I loved about Harry Potter would be present in some form in The Casual Vacancy. Yeah, they weren’t. What I loved best about Harry Potter was the detailed world. You just knew that Rowling had all of these background ideas and details that would occasionally garner a mention in one of the books, but not much beyond that. It made the world come alive.
The village of Pagford in The Casual Vacancy didn’t have that sort of detail. Or if it did, it wasn’t detail I wanted to know about. Honestly, what stood out to me most was the crude way Rowling wrote about sex and people’s relationships, whether in families or in friendships. And the swearing. Oh, my goodness, the swearing. This is not the sort of stuff I want to put into my mind. I kept reading in hopes that it would get better, that some character or storyline would catch my interest enough to make the time invested worth it. No such luck.
I’m sure there are those that love this book, that can find the message and meaning in it that makes it great literature. But I can’t see past the junk and the fact that Rowling wrote an entire book full of characters that I didn’t care about. I didn’t think that was possible. Now that she’s hit both ends of the audience spectrum, let’s just hope she settles somewhere in the middle for whatever books she writes next. I’m not sure how many more chances I’ll give her.