This week I finished Raven Boys and Shades of Grey (Jasper Fforde). I liked Raven Boys more than Shades of Grey because I felt the action moved better in the former and the latter left me wanting more in a sense of lacking dimension. Raven Boys left me wanting more in the sense of wanting to know how everything turns out. The way the characters are all over the place is a little discombobulated, but more is revealed as the novel progresses, and I’m sure more will be revealed as the series progresses.
So on to the weekend. This week, The Casual Vacancy was released after much anticipation. J.K. Rowling’s first book since Harry Potter! An adult J.K. Rowling book! A non-magical J.K. Rowling book! What has the world come to? Well, I must say, I am enjoying it because, as always, Rowling’s characters are intriguing. Even when they’re the mugglest of Muggles, the reader can feel connected to them.
But let me warn you- this novel is NOT for children. Please do not sit and read it to them during story time. There is a lot of cussing (I think Rowling is making up for all the cussing she had to leave out in the Potter books) and sexual situations, drug use, etc. all the sorts of things that happen in reality, etc.
This reminded me of Chris Cleave’s novel Incendiary because of the grittiness of the small British town in which it takes place. But while Incendiary uses the excellent narrative device of a woman’s letters to Osama Bin Laden, Rowling uses her fabulous omniscient narrative voice to move the story along.
I’m about 14% of the way in, and although the inciting event has happened, I still feel like there’s a lot of exposition going on right now. We’re still being introduced to the characters in the village of Pagford, but now they’re starting to interact with each other. Everything is so very normal.
I’m going to say that the magic lies in Rowling’s narrative voice and her ability to create characters with which the reader can relate so easily. From the delicatessen owner to the harried social worker to the drugged-out mom… These are all characters we’re familiar with, either from our own lives or from ones viewed on television or the Internet. The way Rowling describes them, has them thinking and speaking to one another- their very existence of moving through their lives is fascinating. We’ve got a little window into this small town- seeing how people react to a death… and how one person’s death can affect so much.