The Casual Vacancy
I have read the Harry Potter series and enjoyed it greatly. It has been years since I read them so I don’t remember Rowling’s writing style to compare it her style in The Casual Vacancy. I know this book disappointed many people, but did not read any reviews beforehand. I really enjoyed it while I read it, but I am wondering if the problem people had with it was this was not a plot-driven book. It is really about the characters in the town. Some small things happen and it doesn’t have the happiest of endings, but it was really a book about the characters, class disparity, and hypocrisy.
It is a slow build and a long novel. There are a lot of characters, but I thought it was well done going through the nice, peaceful village that is dealing with a council member dying and having to fill his seat on the council. Each family, including most parents and some teenagers, is introduced with all their problems. It seems no one is happy, even though some try to hide it.
The big plot point involves a community building that sits on the edge of village where poorer people live. They use that building for a variety of reasons, but most of the village people would rather not look or deal with any of the poorer people. The village people want to turn that building into something that the poorer people would not use so they can give them no reason to come into the village. I found it fascinating that everyone had secrets. People had serious problems, like drug use. Some were trying to be good, but failing. There were petty fights and serious arguments.
I found it to be very realistic, including the ending where you really wish it would wrap up one way, but since real life does not always go the way you wish it would, it made sense in a way. I really liked that it was realistic and I do love it when novels dig into the fake life that people make for themselves in the suburbs of America or in the quaint villages of England. One character in the book is obsessed with people being “authentic” and many do have that problem.
Soon after I finished the book, the miniseries came out on BBC and then aired on HBO. I don’t know if I would recommend it. It was a 3-part miniseries, but it would have had to been longer to include all the characters in the story. Many of them were cut out, a few characters were combined into one, and sometimes a character was in the miniseries, but their plot in the book wasn’t in the show. I was pretty bored with the miniseries and really only enjoyed the last hour of it. It ended in a slightly different way, which I thought worked, but so many nuances in the book were lost in the translation.