I’m part of the generation who grew up with J.K. Rowling’s stories from Hogwarts. I was about 7 years old when I read the first Harry Potter book and I was graduating high school when last Harry Potter movie was released. Ever since I heard that J.K. Rowling wrote also other books I wanted to read a non-Harry Potter book of hers. And I got to read “A Casual Vacancy”, her first novel after the Harry Potter series, a book I received as gift this summer.

the casual vacancy JK rowling readers high tea sam kerr time
Illustration by Sam Kerr for TIME

In a nutshell

“The Casual Vacancy” tells the story of an imagined small town, Pagford, where the sudden death of a local councillor shakes up the local community. A battle is started on the political field in regard with the open seat on the council. However, as the book description says, the whole town is at war: “rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with parents, wives at war with husbands, teachers at war with pupils“.

Overall impression

I have mixed feelings about the book – I consider it a good book, though it’s not a favourite. On one hand I like the butterfly effect of the story – the death of a citizen causes an interesting chain of events. On the other hand, its focus is mostly on character-building rather than on plot-building, thus not matching my “favourites” criteria.

casual vacancy jk rowling readers high tea

Social issues

The whole story is deeply embedded in social issues  – political struggles, inequality and poverty, drug addiction and mental illness, just to name a few. Even though it is a realistic book, the high concentration of problematic topics might take its toll on the reader from an emotional perspective.

Conception of the book

J.K. Rowling shared that she had the idea of writing about a local election while being on a plane, concluding that “Obviously I need to be in some form of vehicle to have a decent idea” 🙂 (The Guardian, 2012). The initial title of the book was “Responsible”, until Rowling read the work of C. Arnold-Baker on local administrations, where the term casual vacancy was used “meaning, when a seat falls vacant through death or scandal” (The New Yorker, 2012)


To conclude, “A Casual Vacancy” is an interesting story that brings to discussion a wide variety of social issues, presented through the lens of a political struggle. I recommend reading it if you’re into political or social topics, or if you’re just curious to read J.K. Rowling’s first book after Harry Potter.

‘Till next time … happy reading!


Illustration from TIME.com | Cover picture adapted from BookMania.me

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