One of the main draws to the "Harry Potter" series is the wonderfully developed characters and the intricately interlocking plots developed through each new book. So when it was announced that J.K. Rowling was coming out with a new novel for adults, that's what I was hoping to get. And I received it in abundance.
However, Rowling wasn't understating this is an adult novel. It's something we've never seen from her before. But even with themes of drug addiction, promiscuity, prostitution, pedophilia and poverty, seeing her stretch her literary legs is a joy to behold.
While the plot may sound dull - it mainly concerns characters running to fill the vacancy on the parish council after the death of councilman Barry Fairbrother - it's anything but. The characters Rowling creates, while not easy to like, are lost souls looking for meaning in their lives. Perhaps the most lost is Krystal Weedon, a foul-mouthed, promiscuous teenager whose last hope for climbing out of her lower-class status died along with Fairbrother. In addition to being looked down upon by the entire town, Krystal must also deal with her heroin-addict mother and her 2-year-old brother Robbie.
Nearly everyone in the small town of Pagford has something to hide.
Throughout the novel, it's clear that Rowling feels the Weedons are a family that need, and should receive, help. It takes a look at how responsible people are for one another and what happens when no one wants to take responsibility for their actions.
While the book isn't as hefty as some of the later additions to the "Potter" saga, it still packs a punch at around 500 pages, but for those who allow themselves to becomes immersed in the story, the pages fly by as you strive to reach the final chapters.
Rowling's humor is as much at play here as it was in the "Potter" stories, but there's a tragic element to it. This is not a story that has a warm and fuzzy happy ending. And while Potter had some major moments of darkness, it was ultimately wrapped up in a happy fashion.
The magic of "The Casual Vacancy" is that there's no magic here at all - just the cold hard realities of the world we live in. Is it a depressing read? Certainly. But that doesn't make the book any less enjoyable. For most of the tragedy of the book is the result of the action of the characters. And the twists and turns the plot provides is enough to make the reader wish it would never end.
Given the amount of characters in book, and the names one has to remember to know just which character is speaking, a film adaptation of this novel would be unlikely, but I could see it being a huge success if HBO were to produce a miniseries of it.
Rowling's latest, while definitely not for children or those who are easily offended by mature themes and language, should devour her latest as if it were a "Potter" novel, and like a "Potter" novel, it will leave them hungry for more.
Scott Viau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.