Well, ‘love’ might be a bit strong, but I did really, really enjoy it. It’s not the kind of book you can really say you love as it’s so miserable and thought-evoking and kind of pinches you in the ribs, making you horribly aware of what’s unfolding before your eyes.
It makes you think and I think, to be perfectly honest, a book that makes you think is worth more than its weight in gold.
Obviously as J.K. Rowling’s first non-Potter venture, The Casual Vacancy has been subjected to intense scrutiny. It’s been compared, contrasted, ripped apart. The negative reviews have far outweighed the positive; if you were to consider this book on the strength of what you read about it in last weekend’s Sunday papers, for example, you might not be inclined to pick it up.
It’s fast-moving and, at first, difficult to keep with. There’s a cast of characters so great – great in their number, great in their misery – that it can be tricky to remember who’s who, and I found myself having to turn back a few chapters to remember who this particular character was.
But stick with it – it’s worth it. Without giving too much away, it’s a novel about the kind of little village that we all know – the place with the market square and the chocolate box cottages and the neighbours who know everyone – as well as the opposing nearby slum that is all too familiar, where people can live in an almost incomprehensible state of hopelessness and misery. It’s pre-occupied with what we know about people and, equally, what we don’t know about them too: their fears, their dreams, all the thoughts that trail through their minds every single moment of their lives.
The Casual Vacancy is all about unlikely heroes, being honest and acknowledging what’s going on around you. It’s a book, in part, about bravery: in turn, it is a brave book.
The Casual Vacancy is available to buy now