|The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling|
Set in the little town of Pagford, the casual vacancy arises when one of the parish councillors, Barry Fairbrother, dies unexpectedly. Once he does so, a chain reaction of events starts, with many of the Pagford residents assuming that they can slip into the seat, almost unnoticed. However, it soon becomes clear that with so many people interested, a proper election is required, so election day hysteria divides the town and some of the folk who decide to stand are wrapped up in their own selfish reasons for it.
In fact, I'd say the majority of the characters were fairly unlikeable, in that they are petty and mean and think only of themselves. I suppose that makes them fairly realistic, though, as who doesn't know a few people like that? The one thing I would say is that there are a lot of characters, most of whom are introduced within a few pages in the first few chapters, and I found it a lot to take in. I had to keep looking back just to check which character was which, but by about Chapter 10 I was fine.
The book finishes with quite the unexpected twist, which I really hadn't been expecting; it's consequences shake the town's residents.
In some ways I think it's a shame Rowling didn't write this under a pseudonym, as just how do you follow something like Harry Potter? People can't help but draw comparisons, which is sort of like comparing chalk and cheese. As a stand-alone book, though, I really did enjoy it more than I expected it to.