There was every reason to wonder whether J.K. Rowling — whose Harry Potter books have made her quite possibly the most famous writer in the world — could handle the rigors of an adult novel. Few young-adult novelists have made the leap from one to the other. But The Casual Vacancy is an unqualified success. Rowling takes the same meticulous planning with which she built Hogwarts and applies to it to the town of Pagford, where a sudden death has left a vacancy on the town council, which is locked in a struggle over a low-income housing project. Shifting the point of view constantly, weaving together issues of class and race and sexuality, Rowling delivers a kaleidoscopic, deeply moving vision of a tiny, complex drama that’s both grand and petty at once, and in which every character is both hero and villain.
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