After reading the 512-page novel and interviewing the famously reserved Rowling, writer Ian Parker shared his thoughts in a 10,000-word feature in the New Yorker.
“Within a few pages, it was clear that the novel had not been written for children,” Parker writes. “The Casual Vacancy,” after all, is a tale of “class warfare set amid semi-rural poverty, heroin addiction, and teenage perplexity and sexuality.”
“…But reviewers looking for echoes of the Harry Potter series will find them. “The Causal Vacancy” describes young people coming of age in a place divided by warring factions, and the deceased council member, Barry Fairbrother – who dies in the first chapter but remains the story’s moral center – had the same virtues, in his world, that Harry had in his – tolerance, constancy, a willingness to act.”
Even Rowling found similar themes. “I think there is a through-line,” the author told Parker of the New Yorker. “Mortality, morality, the two things that I obsess about.”
But, by most accounts, the similarities end there. For those accustomed to Rowling’s more traditional, buttoned-up children’s fare, “The Casual Vacancy” is most certainly not that.
There’s this: “The leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed.” And this, about a lustful little boy who sits on a school bus “with an ache in his heart and in his balls.”