I will hear no bad words about my girl, Jo. None.
Honestly though, I am such an obsessive Harry Potter fan that I was a bit worried I wouldn’t like her non-Potter work. I was wrong. The Casual Vacancy is a brilliant, engaging novel, yet as different from the Harry Potter books as it could possibly be.
As usual, Rowling’s genius is in her characters. Every character in this book will force you to feel something. They are not straightforward or easily understood, and you may like and disklike them at the same time. But they are complex, fully realized characters, brilliantly written and impossibly captivating. There are no clear lines between “good guys” and “bad guys” (much how the Harry Potter books told us that “the world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters”.)
The Casual Vacancy is a huge, sprawling novel that seems to detail the lives of every single person living in the small parish of Pagford. Just like in a real small-town, Rowling’s characters are all interconnecting in complicated and subtle ways. How she manages such an immense and diverse cast, I can only imagine.
Don’t read The Casual Vacancy expecting Harry Potter. You will be disappointed. Of course, there were moments where I was reminded whose book I was reading — the fun Rowling has with names, for example, or when small throw away moments come back to mean so much more.
The Casual Vacancy is proof that Rowling did not merely get lucky with Harry. She is a fantastically talented writer, and I look forward to seeing what else she can do.
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