Friday, October 12, 2012

The Casual Vacancy...

I've just finished reading The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter series).  I enjoyed it, well enough that I'll buy and read whatever she writes next – but it sure was a big surprise!

First, it is most definitely not aimed at kids.  Unusually mature young adults might find it interesting, but clearly the main audience is adults, especially those with children (or at least with an interest in children).  Unlike with the Harry Potter series, in this book the plot isn't the core of the book – instead, it's with the detailed study of different personalities, of personal interactions (and their consequences, intended or not), and most especially of how children are impacted by the behavior of the adults around them.  There are quite a few interesting characters in this novel, and every one of them is painted with great attention to detail.  The entire novel is plausible – even, unusually, the bit of technical wizardry that is part of the plot (some kids hacking into a web site). 

When I finished, I wondered to myself if there was anything about her new novel that was like the Harry Potter series – because at first blush they seem utterly different.  But I did identify one common thread: complexity.  This novel, like the Harry Potter books, is engineered – by which I mean that she absolutely must have started by thinking out all the characters, their inter-relationships, and the timeline of events.  I know for certain that she did exactly this with the Harry Potter series, because I've seen her worksheet (a sort of handwritten spreadsheet) for that published on the web somewhere.  I'd be willing to bet you that she did the same thing for The Casual Vacancy.  It's just too darned complex to have happened by accident.

Bottom line: thumbs up.  It will take you a chapter or two to get immersed in the world she crafts, but after that you'll be completely engrossed...

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