Image I was excited and scared when ‘The Casual Vacancy’ landed on my Kindle bookshelf. More scared than excited, Out of sheer respect for the past decade that I’ve spent in Potter fandom, I desperately wanted to like it. It is too serious and grim, but I wonder why critics were out there even before the release quoting out of context random sexual references from the book.

We can all deal with profanity, bad language or grown up descriptions of any kind. Much can be talked about this book which does succeed in making you forget, it was written by the same author who wrote Harry Potter, but I’m not sure if it is a good or a bad thing.

Set in a small town of Pagford, Rowling sketches some rough characters and gives them a situation where they end up revealing their dark inner self. I found myself getting interested in the social and political milieu, characters are likable enough, and writing is really brilliant in places. What seems absent is that remarkable imagination that this woman possesses, but then this is not a fantasy. Pagford and its young residents like Andrew, Sukhvinder, Pats, Krystal or the old hats like Shirley, Howard, Miles, Kay or anyone from the lot do not have depth but they do serve the purpose of bringing out the social conflict and their inner issues.

In the mix of Pagford’s residents, there is also a Sikh family, and Rowling has put enough research in their description to make this second generation Britons look natural. I found it much familiar, having recently watched Anita and Me, but the way Rowling deals with their feeling of being outsiders and portrays their cultural heritage with such sensitivity, that marks the maturity of the writer. She just doesn’t instill racial or class related profanity for the sake of it.

Interestingly, her best characters even in ‘The Casual Vacancy’ are teenagers. One can understand Rowling’s wish to break out of the image of ‘children’s author’ and the need to prove her versatility, but her understanding of the young minds shines better than the rest of her dull adult characters in The Casual Vacancy.

The book is daring and she doesn’t need to prove her skills to create a world with social conflict to anyone after seven really logical fantasies. The problem for me lies in the fact that after reading about Rowling’s ‘political correct’ attitude in a colourful magical world of Hogwats, Pagfordians come across as dull creatures. Pagford is often too limited, dark, artificial and unreal compared to her parallel universe of wizards.

Rowling often seems to have this constant need to be ‘politically correct’. That tone, that moral high-ground works wonderfully in a fantasy, but it seems to falter a bit in the pages of ‘The Casual Vacancy’.

Many ‘Average Joe’ writers for grown ups have come up with different versions of moral dilemma, socio-political problems or individual angst. Jo Rowling has the ability and possibility of telling the same stories through a much colourful canvas. She has the freedom to write anything she wants, and feels good to see her doing that. But I wonder if there is anything wrong in sticking to what you know the best.

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