Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy- J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy was my adult fiction pick for this round.  If J.K. Rowling wanted to prove that she could write an adult book, it seems that her philosophy was just to add sex, drug, drinking, smoking, cursing, and politics.  Beyond that I don't really see this book as having any significant merit or staying power.  I was surprised by the number of teens that were still major players in the book in addition to the adults.  The sheer number of cast members was obnoxious and sometimes difficult to tell apart.  About three-quarters of the way through the book the big vote in a local political run-off after a death of a council member occurs.  Up to that point the book had been very predictable and it felt like she was visiting all of the characters for a final goodbye [as long books or books with lots of cast members often to], but it turns out there was one plot twist left and each character essentially got visited twice.  I remember two summers ago when I was staying with my sister for a week that I was surprised to see she had listened to the audiobook [since she had a copy of it in her house] and she told me that her book club had read the book and she ended up getting behind and so she chose to listen to it.  However, she told me that cast was so large she had to look up a graphic to keep track of it all [I don't know if the linked diagram is the one she used, but you get the point].
I suppose if you want a completely worldly book, with a horrendous view of humanity where every character is truly looking out for #1 and no one else and no one cares for anyone else unless they get something out of it, then maybe this is the book for you.  However, I see no morality in the book, no right vs wrong, no wrong being wrong or punished because it is wrong.  I find almost nothing praiseworthy about it.  There is maybe one social worker who is a beacon of hope, but all of her efforts come to naught and the one other innocent character is [SPOILER ALERT, highlight to reveal] a four-year old boy who is distasteful, but not because of his own faults, but rather the faults of those who raise him who dies near the end of the book.  The book is full of greed, selfishness, and unnecessary vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity.  I'll take a Harry Potter sequel any day and I suppose J.K. Rowling can write other things, but she certainly does not have the Midas touch and I don't think I will partake of any of her other works intended for an adult audience.

Post-Script: I did wonder a few times while reading this how much of it was tied to the "rags" part of her "rags to riches" story and if any of this was from a "write what you know" mindset, but that doesn't seem to be the case, at least for the youth part of the narrative.

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