Contrary to what you might think, The Casual Vacancy does not describe the hole left in Potterheads‘ hearts after J.K. Rowling wrapped up the series and told us she would not return to the wizarding world for a long time. Today, her publisher Little, Brown released the title and summary of Rowling’s new novel—and I have to warn you, it doesn’t even sound like it’s for our age group.
The novel begins with the unexpected death of one Barry Fairweather in his early forties, and charts the fight over his seat in the town council. In this “blackly comic” tale, the seemingly idyllic town of Pagford is revealed to be teeming with social unrest:
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
It’s a little jarring, after ten years of reading about wizard duels over London and dark magic blood debts, to have Rowling give us a tale of purely everyday rivalries. What I am interested in, however, is the “blackly comic” aspect; obviously the Potter books were funny, but just in snatches, and usually not when we got down to the serious business of Harry vs. Voldemort.
Rowling is really witty, as evidenced by her 2008 Harvard commencement speech, where she joked about the place looking like the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion and exhorted the graduates to consider “the fringe benefits of failure.”
So even if myself and other Potter fans are wary of picking up a Rowling novel that has no magic whatsoever, I’m still excited that she’s able to play around with her great brand of humor.
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