Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
December 19, 2012 25 Comments
I think there are two types of readers of this book: those who loved Harry Potter and will read just about anything by J. K. Rowling. I think they’ll be disappointed, at least, if contemporary fiction isn’t normally a genre they read. Others, like me, are not overly interested in the fact that Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, and cautiously dip into the book after maybe reading a review or two.
There are also contemporary fiction readers who don’t expect a fantasy author to write a decent piece of fiction. They aren’t planning to read the book. To them I say: forget Harry Potter, this is a very good book!
The Casual Vacancy: What it is about
From the publishers: “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 facade 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?”
The Casual Vacancy: What I thought
I absolutely loved this book! I love books about England, maybe because I lived there myself for 15 years. This was so recognisable.
There were quite a few characters and it took a while to remember who was who (I wrote down most of the names and their interconnections at first, but didn’t need this list after a few more chapters). Except for two men, Andrew’s and Stuart’s fathers, I found them all to be unique enough to keep them apart.
There were some fun and some sad things going on in the book. For instance, someone is putting anonymous and libellous messages on the council website message board with great consequences for the people involved. The reader knows who is doing this and while at first, it’s a fun and exciting thing to do, soon it becomes clear what disastrous effects it has.
Very realistic and very sad was the situation that 16 year old Krystal and her little 3 year old brother were in: their mother a drug addict, they were left to fend for themselves most of the time. Social services were on the case and at the ready to take the children into care, but Krystal tried whatever she could to keep her mother clean so the little family could stay together, albeit in dire circumstances (Krystal’s bedroom furnishings: mattress on the floor, small pile of clothes in a corner. Full stop.)
This particular family’s language was rather poor. With an almost non-existent education, they had a small and incorrect vocabulary. For instance, they say “Gerroff!” for “Get off!”, “intcha?” for “aren’t you?” etc. For people outside Britain, this maybe a little difficult to follow at times. However, this family doesn’t actually talk a lot, so it’s not a big issue.
The loyalties and feuds between the different families in the small town were interesting to read about and are not so clear-cut as at first it seemed.
This was a very enjoyable read, very British, and well-written.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 504
First published: 2012
I got this book: bought it in my almost-local bookstore
Genre: contemporary fiction
Have you read this book?
What did you think?