“A Casual Vacancy”: Book Review

By Anastasia Nicholas

Perhaps you have heard of the miniseries “A Casual Vacancy” that premiered Sunday, February 15, 2015 on the British BBC and will come to the American HBO next month. It was made after JK Rowling’s best-selling 2012 novel of the same name. If you are a Harry Potter fan tired of reading the same seven books on loop in the feeble attempt to preserve the magic (pun intended) you felt reading each book for the first time, look no further! “A Casual Vacancy” is for you.

While JK Rowling’s brilliant writing style is as present as ever, her latest installment is set in the fictional town of Pagford, which is about as far from the wizarding world as you can get. It begins with the untimely death of beloved Parish Councilman Barry Fairbrother, which acts as the catalyst of a contentious citywide debate: who will fill his empty seat? Miles Mollison, a morally corrupt yet very influential lawyer, and his equally twisted father Howard, immediately fling Miles into the running, much to the chagrin of everyone else who hopes to run. It is especially important to the conservative citizens of the town that someone sharing their viewpoints occupy the “casual vacancy,” as it is seen as an opportunity to finally have enough council members to vote to do away with the local rehab facility. They feel that it brings shady characters into the otherwise sleepy Pagford.

However, there are some characters who would not benefit from such a decision. Barry’s closest surviving friends—Colin Wall and Parminder Jawanda—consider it their personal missions to preserve Barry’s legacy by keeping the rehab facility intact. Additionally, Gaia Bawden, a social worker who is new to town, sees firsthand the positive effects the facility has had on children from troubled families—specifically Krystal Weedon, an extremely troubled 16-year-old, and her little brother Robbie, of whom she is the sole caregiver—and joins Barry’s friends in a desperate attempt to preserve it. Simon Price, a mysterious hermit, is neither for nor against the rehab facility, but runs for election simply because he wants to be able to take bribes. Oddly enough, teenagers across town are willing to go to great lengths to prevent their parents from taking over the empty seat on the Parish Council, which will ultimately cause panic amongst the bewildered townsfolk.  

JK Rowling is a world renowned master storyteller, and her latest installment certainly does not disappoint. The book may be just over five hundred pages long, but don’t be discouraged; I was so intrigued by its deeply compelling characters and thrilling plotline that I finished it in one weekend. The characters in the novel have much depth and I feel that anyone can relate to their antics, and the novel itself is thought-provoking and teaches a valuable lesson. If you can read these words, I recommend “A Casual Vacancy.”