As usual, Rowling has such a talent for creating a world of characters! And as wonderfully developed as the characters in Harry Potter were written, the characters in The Casual Vacancy are equally real. While HP created a welcoming magical land, Rowling's newest book enters the small British town of Pagford, whose citizens possess almost every character flaw imaginable.
Be forewarned: this novel is not for those looking for a HP replacement, a fast read, or anyone lacking a great amount of patience. The first several chapters of the book are pretty much just character development for this little town and all its warring groups of people. I normally can juggle many characters at once, but at the beginning, even I had to flip back and forth to connect several dots in order to keep all the characters and their intertwining webs straight. It is a novel that develops very much like Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities- a lot of (somewhat tedious) character build-up in the first two-thirds of the book that leads to an active plot development in the final third.
The book delves into the issues of race, social classes, relationships, addiction, suicide, etc., and to be honest, there is no character for you to "root for" along the way, nor is this a "happy" read. This novel truly is a book of humanity and how every person's perspective can be so different depending on their own experiences and character flaws. The casual vacancy in the book brings out the worst in this town and sheds light on everything that can fuel a person's motives: jealousy, hatred, fear, etc.
All that to say, I really did enjoy the book. Not only is it incredibly well written (I mean it is J.K. Rowling we're talking about here), but it reminded me of the importance of honesty in all relationships. Most of the characters in the book are lacking certain degrees of honesty in the way they deal with those around them, and it was intriguing to see how they all skirted around being forthright in their day-to-day interactions.
And as a side note (if this review didn't run you off completely), don't feel ashamed if you have to google some of the British slang written into the story. I totally did... at least twice. And I'd like to thank my obsession with wanting a British accent since a young age for aiding me in all the other translations... No shame here.