A Casual Vacancy With Shades of Potter


At first sight, it is rather to compare J.K. Rowling’s latest book, The Casual Vacancy, with the Harry Potter series. For one thing, it is realistic, set in present times, and it contains no magic whatsoever (so far). But I did run into a scene that caused a Harry Potter flashback.

At the beginning of the book, a local city councillor drops dead of a brain aneurism, a rather dramatic event. This is much talked about in the small city. The author describes it this way:

The announcement of Barry’s death on the Parish Council website sank with barely a ripple, a tiny pebble into the teeming ocean. All the same, the telephone lines in Pagford were busier than usual this Monday, and the little knots of pedestrians kept congregating on the narrow pavements to check, in shocked tones, the exactness of their information.

Now keep in mind the thought of pedestrians congregating and just imagine them dressed up in emerald or purple cloaks…

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, on a gray Tuesday morning, Mr. Dursley, Harry’s uncle, leaves for work and runs into some unexpected sights.

As he sat in the usual morning traffic jam, he couldn’t help noticing that there seem to be a lot of strangely dressed people about. People in cloaks. Mr. Dursley couldn’t bear people who dressed in funny clothes – the get-ups you saw on young people! He supposed this was some stupid new fashion. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and his eyes fell on a huddle of these weirdos standing quite close by. There were whispering excitedly together.

At lunch time, he seems more people in cloaks “whispering excitedly”. And at the end of the day, when he leaves his office, he runs into one of the weirdly dressed people.

He didn’t seem at all upset at being almost knocked to the ground. On the contrary, his face split into a wide smile and he said in a squeaky voice that made passers by stare: “Don’t be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Know-Who has gone at last! Even Muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!”

So while the scene that follows Barry Fairbrother’s death in The Casual Vacancy is of people congregating to share their shock at the news, the Potter scene is about sharing happiness of Voldermort’s supposed demise. Funny that my mind should make this connection. If it doesn’t work for you, oh well…

I am quite enjoying The Casual Vacancy so far. Some of the characters are somewhat unidimensional but others have an interesting complexity, and there are quite a few plot lines to follow and so far, it is anything but predictable. So I will go on exploring the multiple consequences of Barry’s death.



Rowling, J.K. The Casual Vacancy. Little Brown, New York and London: 2012.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Raincoast Books, Vancouver: 2000 [1997].


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s