Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling


The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Published: September 27th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company
Format/Source: Kindle eBook, purchased
Genre: Contemporary

The Casual Vacancy

Synopsis:

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?

Review:

Before I begin, I highly recommend reading Nataliya’s review of this book. I’m so glad that I read most of her review before beginning this book because it helped to set up expectations. Because I had completely gone into this book first expecting the magic of Harry Potter and also a murder mystery.

The Casual Vacancy is neither. It is:

  • Very intricate. There are many parts that connect and I could definitely see myself re-reading it to get a better idea of all the connections.
  • A study in characters. All of the characters are extremely real. It is perhaps my favorite thing about the whole book. There is absolutely no fantasy about these characters. They are real people.
  •  It is perhaps the first book in a really long time that I’ve read that is in 3rd person omniscient. Even with books like those in A Song of Ice and Fire, each chapter is limited to only that character’s POV. In The Casual Vacancy, POV’s can switch within a chapter.

In explaining this book to my friends, I used the following analogy:

“You know Miley Cyrus? How she was Hannah Montana and a Disney star? Well when she wanted to break free from that become an adult artist, how she started posing nude and getting caught with drugs, and singing racier songs? That’s what it seems like J.K. Rowling is trying to do with The Casual Vacancy; really show that she’s not just a children’s book author.”

Maybe that’s an unfair statement, but out of the various books I’ve read recently, I haven’t read one with as many curse words and some vulgarity in it without it being explicitly that kind of book. At first, it was very shocking and jarring.

Additionally, the style in the beginning had me confused as to who was who. There are so many characters and the way the POV switches, it takes a while to really get involved with each of the different characters. It’s a book that would benefit from a list of characters in the beginning, like some of Agatha Christie’s books. It made it tough going for the first 50% of the book. It was a book that went up hill to then suddenly race to the bottom. It’s that race to the bottom that had me improving my opinion of the book.

That’s why this is a hard one to rate. The beginning was like three stars for me…I liked it. I didn’t really like it, and it was well written enough to be better than just okay. But the end, the revelation of all things being connected…well that bumps it to four stars for me. I feel a bit guilty for whatever reason not giving it five stars, but the meandering in the beginning didn’t match the acceleration at the end.

My rating: 4/5

What do you think?

  • gorelenore says:

    Great review Michelle! Love the Miley Cyrus comparison :)

  • hadasn says:

    I got stuck round page 200.

    • Playing Jokers says:

      Yeah, I bet a lot of people did too…I might have if it weren’t for my book club. But the last 100 make it completely worth it.

  • I ended up really liking this but you’re very right, getting there was a slow process. I love your Miley Cyrus analogy. I think I described reading this as being like peeking through my neighbors windows to see what they get up to when they think nobody is watching, it’s really interesting to gossip about if you know them personally, but otherwise nobody cares because we all have those neighbors. But I also love how Rowling is so insightful about the darker aspects of human nature and the things that motivate people to do the things they do.

    • Playing Jokers says:

      Ooo I like your description! I’ll have to share that with my book club. Rowling still remains on my must read everything she ever publishes list. :)

  • Jenn says:

    Hahaha oh my god. The Miley Cyrus analogy. It’s so perfect.

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