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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling Rating: 3* of fiveThe Book Description: When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? My Review: This was going to be a nastygram to billionairess Rowling, all about setting up expectations and not meeting them, blah blah blah. What cheek. Some little man, well littler than I used to be for sure, sitting with his netbook perched on his lap pillow querulously tapping out a chastisement of one of the world's richest, and most deserving of it, writers.Plus, I was wrong.This is in no way an inferior book, it's not badly crafted, it's got some snarky sparkly characters, and it's telling a story quite akin to the one in Peyton Place. And that book's been in print since long before I was born. (Well, maybe not long exactly, but before.) (It was TOO before! Quit muttering.)What it isn't is the problem. No, not Harry Potter, of course it's not; but it's also not groundbreaking and amazing. It's a solid, middle of the pack read, and we expect Rowling to bowl us over with imaginative flights and eternal verities expressed pithily by wildly romantically named characters. She tells us a right good story. She hits on all imaginable human foibles. She puts some amusing and cutting lines in the mouths of her ladies. I finished the book because I kept thinking about Pagford and its peeps. Now that is an achievement that most writers don't manage, making me think about their characters after I've put a book down.So why the mingy three stars? Because in the end, I was wrong to be snarky and dismissive of a well-made book, but I wasn't wrong to want a writer with Rowling's track record to wow me again. She's done it seven times before. Why not this time? It's what I'm craving. So please Ms. Rowling, please, tell me another story when, and only when, you feel The Tingle and have the goods to deliver.And thanks for silently teaching me to get over myself. It's a valuable lesson. Every time I learn it, it gets more valuable.