Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

PAPERBACK; 568 P.
SPHERE BOOKS, 2013/2012
SOURCE: PURCHASED

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?

Two years ago, this was the book that everyone was talking about. Five years after finishing the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling published her first book aimed to the adult readers. The story of The Casual Vacancy is set in a small town somewhere in England and focuses on the different levels of humanity and human behaviour. Naturally some readers loved the book because it was written by her, and some hated it for the same reason. A lot of people compared it to the HP series, and there was also a rumour that it was based on actual people which kept the media interested for a while longer.

At the time of the publication, I didn’t buy this book because it was really expensive and I wasn’t reading fiction as much as today. I decided to wait for a while for the hype to pass and the price to drop. However, I soon forgot about it entirely until my Christmas shopping trip when I had nothing to read at home and saw it in the book store with the new cover (to be honest, I never really liked the yellow and red cover). Reading this book, I struggled a bit in the beginning. I don’t know if it was the fact that I tried to absorb all the information about the characters or if I was just confused on where the story was actually going. However, after passing the half-way mark, I read pretty much 100-150 pages a day – it was so intense.

As can be expected from J.K. Rowling, the book was written beautifully. The characters were well-developed and I loved how the story moves from one point of view to another, giving deeper insight to the society of Pagford. Nevertheless, there were a few characters that I felt intrigued by but who sadly didn’t get their spot on the limelight. I love when the author jumps between different narratives and still manages to keep the story together. It was also interesting to notice how my personal opinion on the dead character, Barry Fairbrother, changed depending on whose point of view I was reading. In The Casual Vacancy, the characters all struggled with different issues and their problems were not always presented pleasantly. In the end, I found the book to be surprisingly sad, although it did also have its funny moments.

I’d recommend this book to all of those who enjoy Rowling’s writing style, but also to those who would just like a contemporary read.

4/5

“It was so good to be held. If only their relationship could be distilled into simple, wordless gestures of comfort. Why had humans ever learned to talk?”

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

  1. I avoided this when it first came out also–I’m always afraid that books that have a lot of hype will end up disappointing not because they’re bad but because they were overpraised. That said, I picked it up last summer and was not disappointed. I did feel it was slow to start, and perhaps could have been trimmed down a bit, but I really liked the hopping between characters and their perspectives.

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