Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review : The Casual Vacancy

(Original review posted on Goodreads:- January 15, 2013)

Well much has been said and written about this book already throughout the latter part of last year. But here's my twopence on Rowling's ambitious adult novel, which in my opinion has received a rather harsh reception.

This book is grey. As grey as grey can be.
It is an intense introspection on the bleakness of modern day urban life, the dynamics of various human relationships, which may seem ordinary on the surface but reveal complexities just beneath that showy exterior - where the basis of each one is some deeply personal interest and little else. Where every human action is steeped in the fundamental need for fulfillment of some ulterior, personal objective. And it is more about people of flesh and blood, like you and I, rather than a story.

Rowling takes her sweet little time (which costs many of the readers much of their patience) to establish an imaginary suburban neighborhood and its various quirky inhabitants - unscrupulous, prejudiced councilmen, hypocritical educators, pedophiles, violent, abusive fathers, problematic teenagers, promiscuous adolescent girls, drug addicts, drug dealers and pimps, victims of sexual abuse, rape, jittery, reluctant boyfriends, emotionally absent husbands and sexually frustrated, disgruntled wives. But Rowling's achievement lies in the fact that she makes all her characters appear as humane as possible without ever forcefully pushing any one of them either into the realm of abject villainy or highly romanticized heroism. They have their share of good and bad traits. Although, noticeably, the bad in them is much more pronounced.

Rowling dishes out reality in its most vicious and ugly form and leaves nothing to the imagination. She never tries to tone down the scale of the tragedy, everyday mundane life entails. The tragedies we either prefer to shove under the carpet or try and forget about by donning a mask of make-believe contentment.
Pagford is the dystopia of Rowling's imagination and each one of its residents are bizarre enough to be the subject of a psychoanalyst's case study.
In a simple sentence, The Casual Vacancy is Rowling's exegesis on human nature.

Initially I had decided on a meagre 3-star rating but towards the end, Rowling kicks up the ante a notch or two and gives us some some solid plot developments. Her characterization is beyond brilliant and a major asset to this story.
And it becomes quite a page-turner towards the end as the very disturbing narrative hurtles towards an unavoidably tragic ending.

This woman gave a generation of kids (like me) a story so special and awe-inspiring, that it became a part of their lives forever. There's no chance in hell that she can write anything mediocre or substandard.
But, maybe....just maybe I was nurturing hope, in some obscure corner of my heart, of something life-altering and magnificent from her once again.
No, I wasn't naive enough to expect another Harry Potter but I wasn't expecting her ambitious adult novel to leave such a bitterly sharp after-taste in my mouth either.
That made me take away the one remaining star.
Sorry, Jo. Maybe next time.

P.S:-I can't help but wonder, is TCV Rowling's commentary on contemporary England?
I certainly hope not.

4 out of 5 stars.

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