Through 6ish years of living away from my hometown, my sisters and I have found ways to stay close. From sending each other iPhone videos of our kids (they’re actual kids & my students) to messaging links of recent discoveries (usually music or amusing “memes” that remind us of each other). After my sister, Mallory, sent me an awesome Lindsey Stirling cover of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive”, I sent her the link to the amazing score of The Great Gatsby, done by none-other than Jay-Z (both, which I highly recommend listening to). I know this is somewhat irrelevant to the topic, but I just wanted to find a way to add in this recommendation ;).
Anyway, we started talking about The Great Gatsby and discovered that we both just started re-reading it. She then gave me the idea of starting a book club (since she had just started one with her friends) and at first, I thought it was a brilliant idea: a great way to stay motivated about reading and to accomplish my book list.
But then I began to think about the aspects of this alleged book club. A club means multiple people. That would require me to know a decent amount of people in a close proximity that speak and read English well. Problem #1.
I figured I could find at least maybe 2 other people to join my awesome book club, but then I realized that these other people might want to voice their opinion about what books we should read, when I already have a list 10 books long. Problem #2.
No, you can’t really have a book club where you dictate to everyone what book they need to read. And I’m not sure I can find many people who will willingly read Harry Potter from start to finish – I think this “book club” would technically be a Harry Potter club by that time (which, come to think about it, actually sounds pretty awesome. We could drink butterbeer during meetings, just sayin).
Thus, the start of my One-Man Book Club begins.
Book #1: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
When reading another novel by Rowling after being devoted to the Harry Potter series for 13+ years (“plus” because I’m still very much devoted…can you tell?), it’s hard not to compare them to each other. It’s difficult not to have high expectations, although I was allowing a lot of room for disappointment.
However, I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t absolutely in love with it, but I wasn’t disappointed.
This book received mixed reviews all across the board. It was aimed at adults, as evident through the awkward sexual scenes and references, and was comprised of only muggles (sadly). I’m pretty sure Rowling thought “adult novel” meant it had to include every kind of broken-home aspect possible in each of the numerous families the story revolves around. In other words, this book is not all butterflies and rainbows – in fact, there is not a single butterfly, rainbow, cupcake or unicorn in this book. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a single good character in this dystopian novel. No Dumbledore’s, no Snape’s, no Ron’s. The Casual Vacancy has real people that we can relate to on our worst of days. However, like in most books, movies & shows, they’re highly exaggerated and I’d hope to God that there isn’t a city that has as many terrible people as this small, British town. Rowling gives us a glimpse into the lives of far-from-perfect, small-town people and their often petty problems, ugly relationships, inner-demons, and struggles for power.
If you’re looking for a story with a happy ending, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a book with any happiness in it whatsoever, this isn’t it. People have made many criticisms, saying that it’s dull and “too depressing”. Not every great novel has a perfect, happy ending. I don’t remember The Grapes of Wrath or Tale of Two Cities being incredibly interesting and provocative from start to finish. No, it’s not an amazing novel, but it was interesting enough. Unfortunately, it definitely doesn’t engulf your mind and soul, the way some books do.