Jump to content
Maureen

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling (Review thread)

Recommended Posts

I finished this a few days ago and loved it! I even got over the no wizards part (*sigh* I wish there was more Harry Potter to read). I loved the realness of the story, the fact that this town could be anywhere and each of the families described can be found in any community.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished the book this morning and I really enjoyed it! I quite liked the swapping of the PoV of each character - I really do like to know what each character is thinking, especially with how much gossip is in this book! It was quite nice to read something by Rowling that wasn't Harry Potter, but I did have the image of the Dursleys in my head every time the Mollisons were mentioned!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello,

 

I hope you don't mind me putting my review of Casual Vacancy on - I wrote it for the website Goodreads - after reading Casual Vacancy which I bought eagerly being a big fan of Harry Potter. I found it a disappointment and I just wanted to show there are other viewpoints to the first written. I know several people who gave up on the book. I haven't put a synopsis of the story as you have it above;

 

One of the problems with this book is the same problem that JKR had with the last Harry Potter book. It is too long, too detailed and I just wanted her to get on with the story. Because she is a successful author with all the time in the world on her hands she is free to write as much as she likes, put a plethora of characters into her novel, pad it out with unnecessary scenes and descriptions and her editor is happy to leave them all in and let her get away with them. All through reading it I was itching to get out a big red pen and circle parts of it, cross bits out and scribble all over it.

 

Another problem is she has come from writing fantasy and all the characters and situations are on the side of fantastical. The characters are larger than life and exaggerations so much so I found them all irritating. I was unable to sympathize or relate to any of them. Again the events and situations were extreme and unrealistic. JKR seemed to use the book to show as many different examples of unsavoury human behaviour as she could fit in, as well as swearing and sex, just to prove that she is capable of writing an adult book.

 

And yet the subject matter is so dull. If you are going to write about what is a rather boring subject - small town politics at least make it pacy and quick moving but because of her detail and excessive scene setting she loses so many readers early on. I was tempted to give up several times but persisted because I wanted to see if she could finish it satisfactorily and sadly she doesn't. It ends very downbeat and annoying. If you haven't bought it yet, don't waste your money on a hardback. If you have it will make a good doorstop.

 

Just wanted to reassure anyone else who is finding it hard going that they are not alone!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi TammyRich, interesting, thanks; I am reading as many reviews as possible of this book, good and bad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not very good at reviews, I can never put into words what I want to portray but I'll try a little.

Finished this last week, and I really liked it. It wasn't blow your mind fantastic, but an enjoyable read.

I loved the inner village politics. Having grown up in the country, I could see the characters played out in our little village. Very entertaining.

 

I developed quite a fondness for Krystal, was quite saddened at the end, but the memories some people had of her made me smile.

 

Edited by Kylie
Added spoiler tags

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I enjoyed the book so much I downloaded the audio version and have just finished listening too it. It was even better than I remember the book being, although I do credit the narrator for breathing a bit more life into the characters, but listening to it did highlight the amount of swearing in it I kept looking around me to check no one could hear it and wonder what an earth I was listening :giggle:

 

I'm not very good at reviews, I can never put into words what I want to portray but I'll try a little.

 

I just thought I should let you know you are not alone as I suffer the same problem

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks :)

I know I enjoyed the book and I know how I want to portray it, but it never comes out how I want it to. I usually end up with, I really enjoyed this book, or I really didn't like this book :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I added spoiler tags to your post, Stormy. I'm 75% of the way through the book, and I'm afraid you just gave away a major plot point! :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd hoped to have this book read over the Christmas holidays but it didn't happen. Guess I'll have to go hide this weekend and dig in. It sounds GREAT!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoyed everyone's opinion of this book. I've been in two minds about buying it. the audio option looks good.

thanks

lyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I might have to take a trip down to the library and borrow this book! I want to see what all the fuss is about! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stormy - to do spoiler tags you highlight the text and click on the little blue stripy box top left (between the eraser icon and font). Select spoiler from the drop down list of BB codes. (It's not particularly obvious lol) :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Casual Vacancy

by J. K. Rowling

 

From Amazon: When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little 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 town’s 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? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

 

Thoughts: I'd read The Casual Vacancy thread on here and before I got the book from the library I had read that surprisingly many people had difficulties with this book. I don't know if this is because they had the Harry Potter books at the back of their head, at least un/sub-consciously, or if they genuinely just didn't enjoy the novel. Before I picked up the book I'd decided I would take it as it comes, and see what happens.

 

I enjoyed the huge variety of different characters and how their lives and pasts and secrets were unravelled throughout the book. I guess with my previous read I'd figured I need to keep close track of who's who and I think it helped with this novel, too. I have to say, though, that I wasn't feeling the book the way I had hoped: I guess I'd expected it to be more the sort of novel of a very idyllic small village with people in flowery hats. The old kind of British village, perhaps not the way it really is (I am Finnish so how would I know what it's really like) but at least the way I imagine it to be. A bit like in Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and/or Mr Rosenblum's List. In this respect I was disappointed. It was a whole lot more modern than that. But I suppose that was a learning curb for me: I got to read what it can be like in the small towns of Britain today. There are the people on welfare, some of whom have social workers knocking on the door. Social workers who are great at their job but when it comes to their personal life, they don't have a clue.

 

Which leads to this point: I thought a lot of the characters were realistic and I liked it that there was a very varied spectrum of them. The cool and the uncool kids and the ones in between. The adults who want to gain power at the local council, and the ones behind and against them. And the ones who think it's all trivial, and that all that's missing in life is passion for the real things: and for this one person passion

is one of the members in the band her daughter loves...

 

 

What's more, I didn't have any favorite characters, but in the case of this book I didn't mind: all the characters had their flaws and their good points, no matter if they were the 'good' people or the 'bad'. That's what it's like in real life, too.

 

As a novel I was expecting this to be a more funny one. It turned out that beneath it all it was rather serious, and even depressing. Many days after finishing the book I kept thinking about some of the characters and what happened to them. And how some things could've been prevented... If there weren't things such as bureaucracy, keeping up appearances, and even neglect of the person next to you.

 

I thought the novel was thought provoking. I know some people have said that it was very black and white and maybe even underlining of what is good and what is bad, but that's not what I got out of the novel at all. It wasn't an amazing novel, but it has stayed with me.

 

3/5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished reading this last night and I absolutely loved it. I struggled a bit in the beginning because there are so many characters, but after a while I became familiar enough with them. I didn't think of Harry Potter while reading it either but that's probably because it's been ages since I've read those books (but this makes me want to re-read the series). :D It reminded me of Capital by John Lanchester, because of the huge array of various characters.

 

I know a lot of people didn't take to this, but I'd heartily recommend it!! :readingtwo:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished reading this last night and I absolutely loved it. I struggled a bit in the beginning because there are so many characters, but after a while I became familiar enough with them. I didn't think of Harry Potter while reading it either but that's probably because it's been ages since I've read those books (but this makes me want to re-read the series). :D It reminded me of Capital by John Lanchester, because of the huge array of various characters.

 

I know a lot of people didn't take to this, but I'd heartily recommend it!! :readingtwo:

 

I have looked over this thread and Frankie's review on the last page.  I am keen to read it now. Back in 2012 at the beginning of this thread I pledged that I would wait until I saw this book in a charity shop before I read it. Well, last week it happened! I saw the hardback version for a pound. Unfortunately I was waiting for my bus to work and didn't have a spare pound on me!  The next day it was gone. Oh well.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you loved it, bobbly! :smile2: As vodkafan mentioned my review on the previous page, I went back to see what I'd written. I thought I'd given it 4/5, and not 3/5... I guess now I would give it a 4/5. :) 

 

Vodkafan, that's such bad luck! I hope you don't have to wait as long the next time... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you loved it, bobbly! :smile2: As vodkafan mentioned my review on the previous page, I went back to see what I'd written. I thought I'd given it 4/5, and not 3/5... I guess now I would give it a 4/5. :)

 

Vodkafan, that's such bad luck! I hope you don't have to wait as long the next time... 

 

Yes no worries though, I think I might just have... one or two books I need to read in the meantime  :giggle2:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have looked over this thread and Frankie's review on the last page.  I am keen to read it now. Back in 2012 at the beginning of this thread I pledged that I would wait until I saw this book in a charity shop before I read it. Well, last week it happened! I saw the hardback version for a pound. Unfortunately I was waiting for my bus to work and didn't have a spare pound on me!  The next day it was gone. Oh well.....

 

Oh, that's a bummer! I don't know if you belong to a local library, but you're bound to find a copy there. My local library has loads of copies.

 

Glad you loved it, bobbly! :smile2: As vodkafan mentioned my review on the previous page, I went back to see what I'd written. I thought I'd given it 4/5, and not 3/5... I guess now I would give it a 4/5. :)

 

It was so much better than I was expecting. I have to admit that I was put off by the cover, and also a work colleague had said she couldn't get into it. But I'm glad I gave it a go, because I thought it was brilliant. :readingtwo:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was so much better than I was expecting. I have to admit that I was put off by the cover, and also a work colleague had said she couldn't get into it. But I'm glad I gave it a go, because I thought it was brilliant. :readingtwo:

 

Yeah the cover doesn't do it any favors... :unsure: I really liked the big variety of characters and how it was all connected. I like that kind of stuff, not knowing at first how it's all connected but getting there little by little :smile2: 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, might have to give this one a try after reading these reviews. I also thought that this book might be a bit light-hearted and comedic, as someone mentioned further back in the thread, but upon learning that it's a lot darker and more psychological than this, I can't help thinking of all of the terrible suffering implied in the Potter books, much of which was excused or given lesser weight through the children's fantasy medium.

 

And yet I can hardly think of a more vividly terrible backstory than Voldemort's-- a combination of the horrors of poverty, abuse, neglect and resultant childhood trauma creating a man who, in combination with the magical conditions of his birth and the transformation he inflicted on himself before being mature enough to fully digest the consequences, possibly operates within the most tragically constrained conditions of free will in the entire fantasy-villain retinue. He also garners somewhere along on lines of zero sympathy from the other characters, even after they discover all of this, which just adds to how depressing his life story is.

 

Then of course there is Snape's awful, depressing backstory, Dumbledore's, Sirius', and Harry's own, among many, many others, and basically there isn't a man, woman or child in the entire series who hasn't endured some kind of horrific psychological or physical torture...frankly I don't know why I expect any kind of light fare from Rowling, come to think of it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×