Matthew Feeney on J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy

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J.K. Rowling's first book since the Harry Potter series features no wizards, dementors, or house elves. Instead, The Casual Vacancy uses local politics to explore the complex social web of a small English village. The novel takes a decidedly adult tone, with some of the village children engaging in self-harm, drug use, and sex while the adults engage in adultery and domestic abuse.

Since the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives won the last general election, in May 2010, Britain has been politically stressed, with frustrations erupting over the state of the economy. Rowling's book deals with these issues more capably than you may have expected, Matthew Feeney reports, and while it has its literary flaws, the novel manages to be more than simply a social commentary. 

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