I'm NOT just saying I like this because it's J.K. Rowling. But that probably doesn't hurt.
The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
Damn she's a good writer. I wasn't worried, but I'm still pleased that I dig JKR even when she's not writing about Hogwarts. Blurb:
A big novel about a small town...
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 façade 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?
A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.
Even though it's not HP, there are some similarities: big discussion/focus on class divide, wonderful character description and development, and truly creating a world. Ok, so this one isn't magical, but you truly get to know this small town. It's not happy-go-lucky, certainly, but it inspired some interesting reflection on the cruelties of life and how they transform us, and those around us. Since I enjoy her writing and her character development, I didn't mind the slower pace for the first 70% of the novel; she's really laying the scene and drawing you in, but some critics found it boring. All the action happens when characters collide in the last quarter of the book. I thought it was a thrilling end, with car-crash like commotion and destruction.
Give it a read! I have the Cuckoo's Calling on my list next, her pen-name novel (like we don't all know it's her...)