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Book Review: The Casual Vacancy

July 28, 2014

I read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowlings as part of my book club.

As I was reading the book, I was reminded of the TV series, “Days of Our Lives” – a lot of self focused people making bad decisions about relationships, careers and life in general, plus covering a smorgasbord of social issues: neglect, abuse, theft, sabotage, self-harm, rape, suicide, addiction, obsessive compulsive disorders, alcoholism, greed, envy, class distinctions etc.

It was unfortunate that the story was populated with such unlikeable characters. I sensed that Rowlings may have felt she was portraying people realistically, that beneath our pleasant veneers we are all self absorbed. However in the course of reading this book, I happened to attend a local Rotary meeting and I thought to myself none of the people here are in Rowlings’ book! Rowlings has taken the unpleasant side of human nature and described it as if it were normal.

As the book progressed and began to focus on five teenagers who were growing up in these dysfunctional families the story became more engrossing. At least, these teenagers had reason for their unpleasant behaviours. Despite the bad language and the way-too-much-detail sex scenes which were off putting, I’m glad that I persisted and finished the book. The concluding tragedy shocked many, but not all, into re-evaluating their priorities so that in the end the book finished with a sense of hope.

Rowlings’ skill as a writer is obvious as she weaves together a cast of many and reveals thought-provoking insights into human nature along the way. However the obscenities in the book prevent me from recommending what is otherwise an interesting read.

by Susan Barnes
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Susan Barnes

~ writer of insightful posts about God and faith