#20 The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling Review

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?

Firstly, I’ll openly admit I am a complete Potterhead and proud, I have been since before I even started high school and it’s no secret among everyone I know how obsessed I was with the series. I’ll also admit that this is why I chose to read Rowling’s first non-Harry book and her first adult fiction. I find Rowling one of the most dynamic and imagination capturing novelists, her writing is close to flawless (in comparison to the likes of Stephanie whats her name and who ever wrote the god awful 50 Shades triology) and her descriptions I’d compare to the likes of fellow fantasy writers Tolkien, Lewis & Pullman (I have enjoyed all their fantastical fictions). This time, her novel isn’t fantasy.. it’s classed as an adult tragicomedy, and it’s not just slightly adult, it’s VERY adult. 
I did enjoy the book but it isn’t something I ever think I’d read again (like I feel about books by Gregory Maguire) and this isn’t because I know the twist at the end, it’s due to the fact at the same time, I didn’t enjoy it. While reading it, it felt to me Rowling was going out of her way to be adult with her choice of themes. It seemed like she’d gone out of her way to cram every adult theme possible into the novel.. there was domestic abuse, rape, child neglect, drugs, politics, suicide and death, sex, OCD, racism, sexism, bullying, unrequited love, affairs, self harm.. you name it and it would of appeared at some point in The Casual Vacancy. Because of Rowling, it worked.. but at the same time I thought it was a bit unfortunate that it seemed to me she was trying too hard. 
The other thing that narked me was the fact that all the characters were clichés. None of the characters seemed original and had an original personality, I didn’t LOVE any of the characters traits and the actions were all predictable. By the last few chapters it was easy to see what was going to happen with them which was a little bit disappointing. Luckily because I enjoyed the actual plot of the book, it wasn’t ruined too much for me. 
Onto the good stuff.. Rowling of course reduced me to tears at the end, a skill she has honed so well, she has a way of wording things that just pull at me. I also liked that the book had excellent closure, all loose ends were tied by the end and I don’t yearn for a sequel or feel it’s unfinished for any of the characters. 
Of course, what I liked best was the plot. She always makes it so despite anything else, I do want to continue reading. My favourite chapter was Part 5 page 434 because I just loved how it had what all the characters were doing all at the same time, the whole thing flowed together beautifully and it lead nicely into what was going to happen next. I remember reading that part thinking “DAMN, she’s still an awesome writer!” 
My favourite quote is
“It was strange how your brain could know what your heart refused to accept.” 
I thought it is beautiful and very true. It got to me because I’m ruled by my heart initially but my head eventually wins out..
So over all, I do have very mixed feelings about this book. As a whole it was a structured enjoyable book, but if I really sat back and thought about it I know there were things about it that cause me not to want to read it again. I do hope JK Rowling continues to write more adult fiction (as much as I love Potter and would love even MORE Potter) as I’d like to see what else she has up her sleeve.
Now reading… The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Previous Post Next Post