“The Casual Vacancy” is instantly notorious because it’s J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It comes with a prominent black “X” on the cover, fair warning that between these covers you’ll find a subject that’s TABOO in America.
The subject is class warfare and classism. Ms. Rowling’s story takes place in England, and you have to remember that the British and Europeans are not as squeamish about class issues as we Americans. Until recently, we’ve been in full denial.
(If you’d like to read my preview of Casual Vacancy before you start the review, see J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy — Prices Slashed.)
Ms. Rowling takes the micro approach to class warfare, focusing on the lives, relationships, and foibles of the individual men, women and children of one small town in England. The macro alternative would be a “God’s-eye view,” examining society from a distance. Rowling understands that you need to get up close and personal to understand classism and class warfare.
In the first 100 pages of Casual Vacancy, Rowling introduces an average of one new character every two pages.