There is no doubt that there were high expectations for J. K. Rowling's new and adult book, The Casual Vacancy. Since a majority of the Harry Potter fans has grown up with the novels, as they were published, those fans will now be adults. Therefore, they are now the target group of Rowling's new book and are filled to the brim with expectations.
As you start to read The Casual Vacancy, you are met by numerous characters, which is at times confusing and it takes some time before you get them all straight. You very soon realise that this is nothing like Harry Potter – even if one character is called Barry Fairbrother. The lives of the people in Pagford and Fields are all intertwined by the death of Barry Fairbrother and the events that follow his death. Characters are often introduced when the narrator is showing the reader straight into the characters' lives, then explaining their personalities – and problems – by using analepsises, back flashes. This is also the root of the story: Personal problems, family problems, marriage problems. Despite being an adult book, the teenagers make up the most interesting characters, and also those with the strongest personalities. One can wonder if Rowling herself wanted this is to a true picture of British working/middle class society-by focusing on people with family problems, true important problems. Because of the vast number of problems and characters in this book, it is hard to understand how it can fail to grip and interest the reader for the first half.
The number of characters makes it hard to bond with any of them before 50% of the pages are read. Rowling comes up with family problem after family problem, but we do not really get to understand them and therefore the characters before the end is upon us. The teenagers are without a doubt the characters who meet the readers, gain their trust and sympathy. Krystal, Andrew and Sukhvinder have realistic obstacles to overcome and they make the reader hope and be on their side. However, when it all gets exciting and they accomplish something positive or interesting, the point of view switches and we do not hear anything about our new interesting characters before many chapters later... The confusion and annoying feeling this triggers is annoying. The narrator throws the narrative voice around like a ball.
The meaning in the novel is debatable. What is the message? This is what happens if we do not care, help each other or see those who are weakest? Do not judge? The problems are so many, it is hard to keep track. However, Rowling forgets something that Jane Austen was a master mind at – characters who are strong opposites towards each other. This is a technique which brings forth the individual characters' characteristics better. The reader has a hard time feeling sympathetic towards everyone, when everyone deserves his/hers sympathetic thought... There is no happiness in The Casual Vacancy, and that is what demonstrates that J. K. Rowing has failed in writing a highly successful novel.