It wouldn’t be wrong of me to say that every reader in the world knows who wrote Harry Potter, even if they haven’t read a single novel in the series of this literary phenomenon.
There are many characters in the story (which, to be honest, I found a bit overwhelming in the beginning), but each character is so uniquely conflicted, well-depicted, and thus memorable that it’s impossible to confuse one with another.
The novel opens with the death of Barry Fairbrother, a forty-four-year-old member of the parish council in the little town of Pagford. The news of his demise travels fast, and it is received with deep regret by some members of the community and with joy by others. The empty seat in the council is now a “casual vacancy” and that’s what triggers a big war in this seemingly ideal town.
Gossip, gloating over other people’s misfortunes, psychological and physical abuse, power struggles, drug addiction, promiscuity, and so on and so forth. On just about every page, there’s constant fighting—between parents and children, between spouses, between students and teachers, between members of the community.
You can’t help but wonder how can such a small town have so many problems? But it can. Every family seems to be in conflict with one another over something.
Reading about all the problems that the characters deal with would be very hard emotionally, if the author didn’t resort to humor. I think it’s a rare gift to make us laugh, or at least chuckle, while reading about sad things. But J. K. Rowling possesses such a gift.
The Casual Vacancy is a great psychological drama, a thorough, intelligent study of teens’ problems, as well as common problems in the lives of adults.