A Big Novel About A Small Town. Rowling’s adult fiction debut could have used a bit more editing. It’s a pleasant enough diversion into the fictional town of Pagford and the lives of a several of its residents as they deal with the unexpected death of a town councillor. It’s twee and safe, good but not great. Full review is on my blog here.
Based on earlier reviews I read of J.K Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter release, I had fairly low expectations for this novel. It’s definitely not Harry Potter, but I found it enjoyable once I got into it. In The Casual Vacancy, a city councilor in a small town dies unexpectedly, leaving an opening on the city council just when a historically contentious issue is coming up for a vote. Rowling builds the town, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, local store by geographic landmark, until you almost feel like you live there.
Having grown up in a small town mired in its own constant controversies over flood control and developments, I actually kind of liked this novel. The political maneuverings were funny, and interesting, and sometimes its nice to read a book where the stakes are something small like winning a local election rather than saving the world. I related to the town, and to the characters, and the suburban struggles they dealt with.