It was not what I was expecting. But then I read a lot of reviews when it first came out, about the high security surrounding it, NDAs being signed by reviewers, etc. It seemed like a lot of nonsense for a book. And the reviews were mixed as if no one could make up their minds what JK's next book should be about and how it should be written. I think she can bloody well do what she likes, post-Potter.
So, trying very hard not to relate the story to wizards in any way, I read the book.
Rowling creates an ideal village (Pagford) from the outside and then proceeds to dissect the community and its pettiness and squabbles over small things following the death of one Barry Fairweather. He was in his early forties and leaves a wife and four children.
His death means there is a vacancy open on the parish council - not the district council - the parish. The powers that rule over the tiny corner of the earth where Pagford lies. There is a problem with an estate built by the nearby town of Yarvil where drugs, prostitutes and problem families are commonplace and intrude on this quiet town, especially in the form of one Krystal Weedon. She attends school, looks after her brother and has a harrowing life.
Krystal and her mother Terri are the counterblanace to the privileged middle class of Pagford. Her every move is scrutinised and commented on, every by the so-called do-gooders. Some aspire to emulate her life, to live as she lives, while others are scared of what she stands for.
The story centres around the election for Barry's replacement, and what people are prepared to do to get what they want. This is a study of people more than anything else, how people deal with grief, stress, love, work, etc. Sometimes people find the best ways to deal with things are to drink or take drugs or row or be violent. Rowling has them all covered here.
The book is slow to start and then everything seems to happen at once in the final pages. Rowling hops between characters to get their perspectives and often pulls away from their viewpoint to comment as the narrator on the character or the situation.
The writing is cynical, occasionally condescending as she deals with these selfish characters. Not a bad read but perhaps a bit overlong for the story.