1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
JKR examines the 'devices and desires' of our own hearts,
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Paperback)
When I first began this novel several months ago, I found it a struggle to get through the unrelenting nastiness, without finding any one character I could identify or empathize with. And at that time I chose to put it down.
Nevertheless, I was determined to come back to the novel later when I felt ready to tackle it. And I'm glad I did. This time I very quickly began to recognize elements from the hometown of my childhood - local characters & social/political/economic issues. When the author begins to fill in the backgrounds of the characters, giving them greater depth, I started to feel, at some level, empathy for Terri, and for Krystal, and for their terrible plight - and glimmers of humour also relieved the grimness of the characters' behaviour.
JKR inspires both pity & anger with her waspish vignettes of mothers who betray their children with submissiveness, moral weakness & cowardice, & fathers/husbands who trample close relationships with arrogance, intolerance & cruelty, & teenagers full of hatred & resentment. She also penetrates right to the heart of class consciousness & snobbery, & those who live with an innate sense of 'superiority'. These attitudes riddle our society, & our hearts & souls; they blight lives, destroy hope, & ensure injustice and inequality prevails. They lower people's self-esteem and propagate lies that last a lifetime. All this JKR skilfully conveys in The Casual Vacancy.
I found many sharp portrayals: the conversation as a social worker visits a drug addict; the inner life of a bullied teenager as she self harms, her situation made worse by a harsh, unsympathetic mother; the fragile threads upon which a drug addict's rehabilitation depends; the pressures at home which force teenagers into depraved company and behaviour. JKR accurately conveys the effect that going to a certain sort of school has on one's sense of self-worth, and upon the choices one makes in one's friendships and future life.
It's clear to me that the characters in this novel are behaving 'their' way - in other words, the default setting of human nature. It would be pointless and disingenuous for any of us who live in contemporary English society to pretend that we cannot recognize something murky of ourselves somewhere in this novel: something that points up the 'devices and desires' of our own hearts.
However, although I enormously admire what JKR has done in this story, I still feel it lacks a strong enough spiritual message or act of redemption at the end; and the potential for that is very strongly present as the narrative progresses. It's only this factor which prevents me from giving the book 5 stars.