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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling If this book was written by someone other than J.K. Rowling I never would have looked twice at it. Maybe I should have gone with that instinct. This book was over 500 pages of waiting for something to happen.

Let me give credit where credit is due. Rowling develops amazing characters. The Casual Vacancy is about a small town where everyone knows each other, they are certain their little town in the best place on earth, and things fall apart when one person unexpectedly dies. Rowling takes us deep into the psyche of about a dozen of these townspeople, young and old, and she does it remarkably well. Each of them has some dark emotional issue that they are dealing with, and they are written so well that it made me wonder whether Rowling herself could be sane to be able to portray them so well.

Unfortunately, these characters never seem to really do anything. We read hundreds of pages of their daily lives with some minor drama, but the final climactic moment has little to do with everything else that has taken place. That's not completely true. The rest of the novel shows how every person is so wrapped up in their own little world that they either do not notice or do not care when tragedy is unfolding right before their eyes. They make us think about how easy it is to discount someone and decide they are not worth our time and effort. A valuable lesson, but one that Rowling took a long time in getting around to.

If you are looking for an example of superb character development (say if you are a writer yourself), then I would recommend this book. Otherwise, you may spend hours turning pages thinking surely something is going to happen soon, only to be continually disappointed.