Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
This is Rowling's first book written for adults. I had received reports from others who were in the middle of reading it when I first picked up the book. Some reports were positive and some were negative so I was eager to see for myself.
This is a story of the people who live in a small village that is next to a town. The "casual vacancy" is a formal term to describe a situation when someone on the community council of the village dies. In the first chapter, a man dies. As the story progresses we learn more about what kind of man he was and why his death is so pivotal in this community.
During the course of the story we get to hear the thoughts of most of the characters. This gives us an interesting perspective in what seems to be a study of human nature. In many ways we get to see that those people who think they are the backbone of the community are really the ones with the least to offer. Those that think they are but a small, and even worthless, part of the community actually have the most to give.
There is another plot line within the book that follows the goals of the dead man. This thread follows the reality of a 16 year old girl who lives in a run-down neighborhood, "The Fields", on the edge of the village boundaries. Many people within the village believe that The Fields should be part of the town rather than the village so that the poor and disadvantaged that live there can stop polluting the quiet peaceful atmosphere of the village. Others believe that the people of the village should be of help to those in The Fields so that they can change the circumstances of their lives.
I liked this book. I disagree with my friends who said they felt like Rowling just stuck in swear words and vulgar scenes just to make it an adult book. I felt that these all seemed appropriate for the characters. I feel like it was an adult book from beginning to end because it was so much a study of human nature and not entertainment like the young-adult cross over books are. This was not a page turner for me but I did become more engaged in the characters and wonder what would happen next and would so and so redeem their worth as a human being. It took until almost half-way through the book to get engaged so if you are trying to read it and find it slow, keep at it. It is worth the read.