The Causal Vacancy by J.K. Rowling © 2012 Little, Brown
I’m a little slow getting to this one, which is fitting, as it is a sloooow story. The adults in Pagford are immature, selfish, and backstabbing. Unfortunately, they have passed on these traits to many of their children. The “casual vacancy” is a seat on the town council which has opened up due to the death of Barry Fairbrother, apparently one of the few nice people in town. The traits of Pagford’s adults and children are exposed in events related to filling Fairbrother’s council seat.
Rowling does a fine job painting the various characters who spar in this soap opera, but the characters are all one dimensional. You like some and hate others, but none of them change much and there is no “hero” to speak of. The story is about political wrangling over whether to expunge a poor area, the Fields, from the district and about teenagers being mean to one another. Small stuff. The traits inherited by Pagford’s children eventually result in a pair of tragedies, but this lone big event at the very end doesn’t appear to change Pagford. It’s just a way to wrap things up.
Still, it is well written. There is humor and genuine emotion throughout the meandering story. As I said, it’s a soap opera, and if you take it for that, it is worth the read.