The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

The_Casual_Vacancy

I was not blown away by The Casual Vacancy and hadn’t expected to be, even though there’s (obviously) been a lot of interest surrounding J.K. Rowling’s first book since the Harry Potter series. The plot summary sounded dull and most of the reviews seemed a bit disappointing. I was still very happy to receive a copy for Christmas, because even if I wasn’t expecting great things, I was still curious.

The Casual Vacancy is a bit like a boring soap opera that is trying to be edgy. The book follows the lives of several residents of the small town of Pagford, with the central plot being the recent death of Barry Fairbrother and the space on the local parish council that has opened up because of it. I’m not interested in small town politics at the best of times, but add petty gossip into the mix and I can be quite put off. 

There were other storylines of more interest. In fact the book is crammed with other storylines, almost as if J.K. Rowling had a long tick list of soap opera dramas to include. There’s domestic violence, unhappy marriages, infidelity, rape, racism, drug use, adoption and even a hint at teenage pregnancy. I’m not sure it was necessary to include all of these themes, but at least it distracted from the parish council storyline.

From this post, it sounds as though I hated The Casual Vacancy, but really, I just felt indifferent. I enjoyed reading the book over a few evenings as an easy read after work, but wasn’t desperate to get home and find out who would make the seat on the parish council, or whether the teenage boy would manage to get the girl he fancies at school. In fact, I couldn’t really care less about any of the characters. None of them were likeable or interesting enough to make you want to root for them, possibly with the exception of Krsytal Wheedon; the naughty girl with the drug addict mother, but even she managed to get on my nerves by the end of the book.

I think I would have preferred The Casual Vacancy if it had been more light-hearted and positive. The setting and J.K. Rowling’s writing style would have worked nicely with a bit of cheeriness. Instead we have unhappy characters and depressing situations. If there was one thing that took me by surprise, it was how bleak the book became towards the end.

I picked up the book with the intention of not comparing it to Harry Potter, which turned out to be rather easy. This book is nothing like the children’s series, although the writing is very similar. I have always appreciated J.K. Rowling’s simple and concise sentences. The Casual Vacancy certainly lacks magic though, both in storyline and characters. Who would believe that the person who brought such people as Albus Dumbledore, Hagrid and the Durleys (to name but a few) into our lives could write a book with such bland and uninventive characters?

If you’re still curious about J.K. Rowling’s first book for adults, you can buy your own copy by clicking on the picture below.

21 thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

  1. I love this review, you summed up how I felt pretty much completely! I definitely feel she tried to do too much and failed to deliver on all counts. Although the ending almost saved the whole book, she packed pretty much all the exciting content into the last few chapters.

    I never managed to care who won the seat though and it took me a minute to remember who it was just then!

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    • Thank you! It seems that many people feel the same as us. It’s a shame, but I was expecting it to be honest.

      Ha! I completely forgot who won the seat too and also had to take a minute to remember!

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  2. My boyfriend gave me this book for my birthday back in November, but it’s still on my bookshelf. I was all psyched when I first heard about it, but after reading some poor and mixed reviews on it, I was too nervous to crack it open. I love Harry Potter more than life itself and I don’t want to be disappointed by her newest novel. But I also don’t want to disappoint my boyfriend, so I’m thinking I should probably read his gift soon (he keeps asking about it).

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    • At least you will be going into it knowing that you might not like it. Hopefully that will make you feel less disappointed! I’m sure your boyfriend won’t mind if you leave it for another couple of months (just in case you need that time to prepare!) Good luck! I hope you like it better than I did!

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  3. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book either; although I think she did a good job portraying her themes, it just wasn’t the type of book I enjoy. I agree with you that none of the characters were very sympathetic, except for maybe Krystal, and that made it hard for me to really like the book. I do congratulate Rowling for doing something so different from Harry Potter, though!

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    • It certainly is different from Harry Potter! Just wish there were some characters that I cared about. I think this isn’t my type of book either, but I suppose I knew that before I picked it up so sort of realised what I was letting myself in for.

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  4. I really liked this book–lots of things about it reminded me of where I grew up, so I connected with it pretty easily. She definitely got right the small-own dynamics.

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    • I don’t like the small town politics and gossipy neighbours, it all feels like a bit of a boring subject to me – but it’s strange because I LOVE those silly murder mystery TV shows set in small towns and villages. I probably would have preferred The Casual Vacancy if there had been a mini murder mystery in it!

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  5. I’ve heard similar reports from two people I know who’ve read it/started reading it and couldn’t be bothered to continue! Thanks for the review. 😀

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  6. I’d wondered if it would be as good as the Harry Potter books. But even the title sounded, as you said, boring trying to be edgy. The Casual Vacancy doesn’t quite have a ring to it. Maybe if it were Harry Potter and the Casual Vacancy….ah, well.

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  7. I’ve still got this on read; like you it is more out of curiosity than anything else, but for some reason I find myself willing into be good. Maybe this is just because I enjoyed the HP books so much I want to like this too, plus JKR seems such a lovely duck. Oh we’ll, I’ll still read it despite no rave reviews!

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  8. I totally agree with everything you have said. Unlike you I didn’t even finish this, because I didn’t care enough about the characters to want to find out what was going to happen to them. It was if J.K Rowling was trying too hard, to convince the reader that she could write for adults. However in my opinion, she’s much better off sticking to what she knows and that’s writing for children. This was a very disappointing read.

    Great Review!

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    • There were moments when I felt that I couldn’t be bothered to carry on reading, but there were some storylines that I was curious to finish. I don’t like leaving books half finished, although I do it sometimes. Thanks for the comment!

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  9. I, too, felt the need to read The Casual Vacancy just out of curiosity, but it really didn’t impress me at all. In fact, I found it downright depressing! Like you, I couldn’t believe that this was the same author who wrote the Harry Potter books. I think she just wanted to get as far away from the Harry Potter hype as possible by trying something at the opposite end of the spectrum. Don’t get me wrong, it was still well written, but it’s definitely not a memorable one for me.

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    • Going by the plot summary, I would never have picked this book up if it hadn’t been written by J.K. Rowling. But I was ready for it to be a bit disappointing (which meant I was less disappointed than I could have been!) Maybe I’ll avoid her adult books in the future unless they sound like my sort of thing!

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