Review #3: Fiction
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
I really just didn’t connect with this material at all. The story was rather unremarkable to me. I was hoping for more political intrigue being a fan of politics and this seemed like it had potential with a town torn apart over a controversial upcoming vote and the member on the council who is the swing-vote dying suddenly. But really it was less about that and more about the characters, characters I just really didn’t relate to and couldn’t get interested in. First of all, there were a lot to follow, probably over 20 characters, and we’re given each of their point of view in turn throughout the text. I personally found nothing redeeming about any of them. I was hoping for at least one character that I could root for, but it never happened.
I also found the plot kind of choppy and slow in places, and a little too predictable as a whole. It’s not that the writing isn’t good; it’s J.K. Rowling — the woman knows how to tell a story. She weaved the lives of these 20+ characters together brilliantly. It was never confusing, none of the characters were under-developed, and no one’s story was left unfinished. The issue I had was that the characters were not likable. That’s not always a bad thing; sometimes the best characters are ones you love to hate. Not in this instance, however. Every character was rude, immature, vindictive, shallow, dense, weak, antagonistic — just all-around bad people. It was to the point that I wasn’t really invested in how the story played out because I didn’t care what happened to them, and thought they all deserved the awful situations they found themselves in.
To the story’s credit, it brought up a lot of issues with politics and poverty, geographical prejudices, addiction and government-funded assistance programs. It was very insightful and honest about these hardships and the role ordinary citizens as well as elected officials play in these programs and in perpetuating intolerance. I think in that aspect it was supposed to be hard to swallow and uncomfortable to read. This is what I felt the book did really well.
Overall, I didn’t relate to the characters and was expecting a different kind of story with a more politically driven plot line.
I give this 2.5 stars out of 5.
*Cover art from Amazon.com