“The Casual Vacancy” (Little, Brown and Company), by J.K. Rowling.
So look, here’s the thing: This. Is. Not. A. Children’s. Book. If you’re looking for what made Harry Potter magical — Wizards! Spells! Flying Broomsticks! — you’re not going to find it.
If you’re looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical — emotion, heart — you will.
“The Casual Vacancy” is the first novel written for adults from Rowling, the successful-beyond-belief author behind the “Harry Potter” series about the young boy who discovers he’s a wizard.
Published in the U.S. by Little, Brown and Company and in Britain by Little, Brown Book Group, “The Casual Vacancy” is scheduled to come out Thursday and has been held under tight control, with media outlets required to sign non-disclosure agreements before being permitted to see the book. The Associated Press declined to sign such an agreement and instead purchased a copy early.
Already at No. 2 on Amazon, the book has gotten early buzz from references to sex and drugs that might be a tad mature for the youngest “Potter” fans.
It’s set in the small British village of Pagford, and tells the story of what happens after the unexpected death of a town official leaves a vacancy on the town’s governing body. A long-simmering conflict over what the solidly middle-class village should do about the residents of a poverty-stricken, drug- and crime-infested housing project on the edge of town gets heated, interwoven with the personal lives and problems of Rowling’s characters.
This isn’t a book that’s easy to fall in love with, the way Harry Potter was with its charming, winning hero and his plucky friends, saving the world from evil with the help of a powerful spell or two.
Even with its moments of humor, it’s a hard story where some people just don’t get saved, because really, they never had a chance. It’s filled with often unlikeable people, some of whom cross the line into terrible. They’re all unhappy in one way or another, even if the only people who know that are themselves, if that. They can be judgmental, mean, petty and violent. Some are damaged beyond repair. Even the deceased official, in some ways the most positive, moral force in the story, is shown to have hurt his wife with his dedication to his cause that clearly came at her emotional expense.
But what could have been an unreadable story becomes something else in Rowling’s hands, thanks to her gift of being able to make her characters complex and really, just human.
Readers know these people. They’re familiar, with their moments of lashing out in anger or hoping against hope that this time things will be different. They’re people the reader feels something for, even it’s just pity, because they’re struggling, because life can be hard and sometimes there just aren’t any breaks, because even people who look like nothing but trouble can do something good. A number of her characters are teenagers, trying to figure out their places in the world, with all the emotional peaks and valleys that can bring.
That ability to bring her characters to their emotional life was a hallmark of the Harry Potter series — it didn’t become a global phenomenon just because it was an exciting adventure, but because there was a real heart to it, characters who had both strengths and weaknesses, who struggled with their choices.
That’s what makes this book worth it, despite a slow start and sometimes too much of the descriptions and adjectives that added life to Harry Potter but at times tend to bog Rowling down here. That’s what makes the book’s ending scenes so heartbreaking — turning the page seems unbearable, but not as much as putting down the book would be.
Follow Deepti Hajela at http://www.twitter.com/dhajela .
“The Casual Vacancy” (Little, Brown and Company), by J.K. Rowling.
‘Game of Thrones’ earns a leading 19 Emmy nods
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The sprawling and bloodthirsty saga “Game of Thrones,” defying the Emmy Awards’ grudging respect for such fantasy fare, emerged as the leader in the nominations announced today with 19 bids, including best drama series.
Ohio Boulevard home built to promote 1948 movie
It isn’t often that you get to meet a movie star right here in Terre Haute, but on July 20 you’ll have the chance to do just that — almost.
Dragons Double Feature June 12 at ShowPlace 12
Tickets for Dragons Double Feature in RealD® 3D are on sale now at ShowPlace 12 in Terre Haute.
The June 12 event begins with 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon” at 6 p.m. and concludes with the 8 p.m. release of the summer’s most anticipated animated film, “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
Red Skelton fest in Vincennes June 6, 7
The city of Vincennes will “Paint the town Red” June 6 and 7 during the Red Skelton Festival that will feature a variety of activities for young and old. The annual festival honors Vincennes native Red Skelton, America’s most beloved clown.
University: Poet, author Maya Angelou dies at 86
Maya Angelou, a Renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, has died, Wake Forest University said in a statement today. She was 86. Angelou had served as a professor of American studies at the school since 1982. Angelou had been set to appear this week at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards Luncheon, but canceled in recent days citing an unspecified illness.
Jake Owen coming to Hulman Center in September
Nashville recording artists Jake Owen and the Eli Young Band will perform in concert Sept. 13 in Hulman Center at Terre Haute, according to the concert calendar website pollstar.com.
Barbara Walters sets May 16 for exit
NEW YORK (AP) — Barbara Walters plans to make her final appearance on “The View” on May 16, part of a daylong retirement celebration that will include ABC News naming its New York headquarters after her.
Prism of modern country on display at ACM Awards
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The new artist of the year category at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards is a primer in Modern Country 101 with three nominees who perfectly capture the genre’s 21st century sound: Brett Eldredge of Paris, Ill., Justin Moore of Arkansas and Kip Moore of Nashville.
April loaded with live music at Ambrosini’s
Terre Haute is home to many great musicians, as Steve Smith is readily aware. For the past 20 years, Smith has been hiring them to perform at Ambrosini’s Pizzeria. So to kick off spring and April, Smith is offering live music three days a week, all in honor of his 20 years of operations.
Kokomo woman doesn’t regret quitting ’Survivor’
KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — A Kokomo woman’s decision to quit “Survivor: Cagayan” during last week’s episode left millions of viewers outraged, some even taking to social media afterward to call her “a loser,” “pathetic” and not even worthy of being part of the reunion show at the end.
Minecraft Mania hits Terre Haute Children’s Museum
Minecraft and learning will collide on Thursday, April 3, when eBash Video Game Center presents Minecraft Mania at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum. The classes are being sponsored by Duke Energy.
Voting begins for Valley country star
Brett Eldredge, a country music rising star — and proud Wabash Valley native — is one of the nominees for New Artist of the Year at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards.
‘12 Years a Slave’ wins best picture at Oscars
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Perhaps atoning for past sins, Hollywood named the brutal, unshrinking historical drama “12 Years a Slave” best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards.
VIDEO: The Grascals have Wabash Valley’s toes tappin’
Bluegrass fans came from all four corners of the Wabash Valley to see Nashville, Tenn.-based band The Grascals — and its Vigo County-native member — in concert Friday night in Union Christian Church.
Jo-Ann Jones of Clinton was “pew dancing” in front of the sold-out crowd.
VIDEO: The Grascals give 2nd bluegrass concert in Terre Haute
Bluegrass fans came from all four corners of the Wabash Valley to see Nashville, Tenn.-based band The Grascals in concert Friday night in Union Christian Church.
Audience gets first look at ‘The Drunk’
For one night, Hollywood came to Terre Haute.
The Indiana Theatre was packed Saturday with close to 1,300 excited movie-goers, film extras, actors and supporters for the much-anticipated official premiere of the movie, “The Drunk.”
Shirley Temple, iconic child star, dies at 85
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Shirley Temple, the dimpled, curly-haired child star who sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of Depression-era moviegoers, has died. She was 85.
Rock of Ages: Hulman Center stage has been entertaining crowds since 1974
As the stage lights came on, Sam Wellington and his cohorts gazed out at an audience of 8,060 Midwesterners.
The scene was familiar for him. Wellington and his country music quartet, The Four Guys, opened shows night after night for fellow RCA Records artists Ronnie Millsap and headliner Charley Pride on tours across North America.
Concert venue proposed for Indianapolis site
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A large outdoor concert amphitheater is among the proposals being made for the redevelopment of a closed General Motors metal-stamping plant site near downtown Indianapolis.
Grace Kelly Quintet to perform at Rose-Hulman
She’s been called a fearless young improviser, a phenom and the future of jazz. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall will welcome jazz saxophone sensation Grace Kelly and the Grace Kelly Quintet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
No Intermission: Character meets demise on ‘Walking Dead,’ but lively acting career continues for Terre Haute’s Jose Pablo Cantillo
Characters often make dramatic exits from television shows.
Few could top Terre Haute-raised actor Jose Pablo Cantillo’s departure last month from AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
The scene occurred in the fourth season of cable TV’s most popular drama series ever.
MARK BENNETT: Album turns memories into musical Christmas message for Terre Haute’s Dave Frey, band
In a way, Dave Frey walked in the footsteps of Charles Schulz.
Both men worked hard to let Linus Van Pelt explain the “true meaning of Christmas.”
Country star to return home for ‘Brett Eldredge Day’
Atlantic Records’ Brett Eldredge wraps up the best year yet of his career at the top of Billboard’s Country Airplay Year-End Chart. In a year marked with a series of memorable milestones, the powerhouse vocalist not only had one of the top, most-played country songs with “Don’t Ya,” he also released his debut album, “Bring You Back,” scored his first No. 1 single with “Don’t Ya” and received a CMA nomination for New Artist of the Year.
After just wrapping up his first headlining club tour, Eldredge is scheduled to return to his roots when he is to be honored in his hometown of Paris, Ill., at “Brett Eldredge Day” at 4 p.m. Sunday at Paris High School.
Vincennes Watermelon Drop bringing Gallagher to town
Comedian Gallagher is kicking off his “Last Smash” tour on New Year’s Eve at the sixth annual Watermelon Drop in Vincennes. He will perform at a 5 p.m. show at Vincennes Lincoln High School’s Ader Auditorium.
Effingham Center bringing ‘Home for Holidays’ show
“Home for the Holidays-American Big Band” is bringing all-time Christmas favorites from Bing to Buble to the Effingham Performance Center at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 19.
Young pianist at EIU’s Doudna Oct. 29
CHARLESTON, Ill. — Eleven-year-old William Yang has been traveling the globe giving piano performances and winning piano competitions since he was 7. Yang will bring his talent to Eastern Illinois University’s Doudna Fine Arts Center on Oct. 29. The performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. Tickets are now available.
Sammy Terry show Oct. 19 in Indiana Theatre
It’s October and Sammy Terry time.
- Live event listings: Oct. 10, 2013
The sounds of ‘The Wabash’
A second musical compilation reflecting the Wabash River will be unveiled in a release party Friday at Art Spaces Inc.
Musicians Hall of Fame jam, picnic Sunday on Shrine Hill
The Wabash Valley Musicians Hall of Fame invites the community to its Picnic & Jam scheduled noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Shrine County Place, 4500 E. Temple Ave. in Terre Haute.
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