Yesterday I was sick (some kind of flu bug) and I lay around reading “The Casual Vacancy” by J. K. Rowling.
It got a bit of a rough ride from the critics when it was released, but that, I think, was at least partly because none of those people reviewing it expected Rowling to write so differently from the way she wrote in the Harry Potter series.
I don’t know why they wouldn’t expect an adult book to be written so differently. It seems obvious that when writing fantasy novels for YA audiences, one would have a simpler style.
And this is not a fantasy novel.
It is an in-depth look at human behaviour and how even quite small pettinesses can have a huge effect on others around you. How so many hidden hurts and jealousies and secrets influence people’s behaviours and when they bump up against other people’s insecurities, prejudices or responses, the consequences can be enormous and frightening – and how our blind spots cause us to damage other people, even when that isn’t our initial intention.
It was classified, in some ways, as a mystery – but there is no “murder” or even “mystery” as such – just a terrible and almost inevitable cataclysm as so many people’s actions collide. The “mysteries” of the human condition, in a way.
I quite loved it, but it isn’t a pretty book. It is a bit raw and unflattering, and I suspect that at least some critics did not like it because it does lay bare how our small and mean-minded selfishness can be so incredibly far-reaching and catastrophic to those around us – no matter how well we camouflage or rationalize our ugliness of spirit to ourselves.
It is not a “comfortable” read.