Sheila Deeth, November 13, 2014 (view all comments by Sheila Deeth)
If you watched Broadchurch, or the American version, Gracepoint, you probably already know the flavor of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. A small English town and its even smaller suburb across the hill form the backcloth to the tale. A wealth of characters, rich and poor, young and old, all hide their sins and secrets, living seemingly normal lives with normal afflictions covering normal needs. But one man has died, leaving a “casual vacancy” on the council. The council’s word just might decide the future of a teenage girl and her run-down neighborhood. But it all depends on who can win the most votes, sway the most opinions, or beat the system most efficiently.
J. K. Rowling paints convincing characters interacting with wholly authentic dialog. The flavor of England, slightly gone-off, over the hill, wounded, or even scared, fills every page. Every picture reveals its hidden side, and every argument remains strong in its own dark twisted way. Readers follow the paths of runaway, stay-at-home and stranger, picking favorites perhaps, struggling to approve when the next betrayal looms. But these characters aren’t there to please---their aim is just to survive. And this novel brings their world and their suffering to life.
Thought-provoking, sad, neither casual nor vacant, this novel is a heavy tale of real people, torn and darkened by the past, then lit, in the end, by just that hint of silver lined clouds when the rainstorm’s passed.
Disclosure: I might not have picked it up if it weren’t written by J. K. Rowling, but I found it cheap in a store and I’m glad I bought it.
writermala, March 20, 2013 (view all comments by writermala)
J.K Rowling starts her first book for grown-ups with a shocking death of county favorite Barry Fairweather. From here this excellent storyteller weaves a plot involving several very human characters.
Rowling has introduced several teenagers into the plot. In so doing she has stuck to a populace that she is very familiar with from her experiences in the hugely successful Harry Potter series.
The vacancy created in the council by Barry's death becomes a bone of contention among the townspeople and Rowling does an excellent job of telling us about it!
Helenka, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Helenka)
Rowling gives us a fascinating intimate look at the gritty side of small town England! She creates characters that seem to come alive with all their human foibles and troubled psyches. A truly enjoyable if somewhat lengthy read!
marblan, January 13, 2013 (view all comments by marblan)
The casual in the title is very misleading even if it does just refer to the type of vacancy left by a death. The story and the people are very intense! Love the read and hope she does more in the same genre.
Little Brown and Company -
by Michelle M,
J. K. Rowling's new book is a little like Harry Potter — if Hagrid never came to collect Harry and instead the novel focused on the dysfunctions of the Dursleys and all their neighbors. That being said, The Casual Vacancy still possesses Rowling's uniquely addictive storytelling, and you'll soon find yourself needing to know what will befall the small town's inhabitants next. Though frequently dark, it has a quaint and charming quality that makes it the perfect book to curl up and read by lamplight while drinking tea on a winter's night.
by Michelle M
Set in a tiny town in the English countryside, Pagford is populated with the unlikeliest of characters. It's the perfect setting for salt-of-the-earth, kind, community-minded, and compassionate folks. But you won't find such people here. Everyone has a secret; everyone has hidden motivations and desires which they will stop at nothing to satisfy. These are unseemly folks, each with his or her own particular array of distasteful traits. Throw in a newly vacant seat on the town's council, and you have fertile fields for every kind of backstabbing, manipulating, lying, and coercing imaginable. Yes, it's on.
Surprisingly, while racing through The Casual Vacancy (because I could not put it down), I was most often reminded of Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell). Rowling's vision of her characters' emotions is razor sharp, and the clarity with which she understands their inner life is startling. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who could paint a psychological study better than Vine, but Rowling is certainly hard on Vine's heels here. Yes, her characters are unlikable (every single one of them), and yes, this is a tale of ugly people doing awful things, and yes, there is so much going on here that it takes a bit of effort to untangle all the threads. But this is one fantastic read, and it is so completely worth the effort. Rowling is, above all else, an amazing storyteller. Don't miss her gigantic leap into adult fiction; it is a thing of beauty underneath all the darkness.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"On the face of it, Rowling's first adult book is very different from the Harry Potter books that made her rich and famous. It's resolutely unmagical: the closest thing to wizardry is the ability to hack into the amateurish Pagford Parish Council Web site. Instead of a battle for worldwide domination, there's a fight over a suddenly empty seat on that Council, the vacancy of the title. Yet despite the lack of invisibility cloaks and pensieves, Pagford isn't so different from Harry's world. There's a massive divide between the haves and the have-nots — the residents of the Fields, the council flats that some want to push off onto a neighboring county council. When Councilor Barry Fairbrother — born in Fields but now a middle-class Pagforder — dies suddenly, the fight gets uglier. In tiny Pagford, and at its school, which caters to rich and poor alike, everyone is connected: obstreperous teenager Krystal Weedon, the sole functioning member of her working-class family, hooks up with the middle-class son of her guidance counselor; the social worker watching over Krystal's drug-addled mother dates the law partner of the son of the dead man's fiercest Council rival; Krystal's great-grandmother's doctor was Fairbrother's closest ally; the daughters of the doctor and the social worker work together, along with the best friend of Krystal's hookup; and so on. Rowling is relentlessly competent: all these people and their hatreds and hopes are established and mixed together. Secrets are revealed, relationships twist and break, and the book rolls toward its awful, logical climax with aplomb. As in the Harry Potter books, children make mistakes and join together with a common cause, accompanied here by adults, some malicious, some trying yet failing. Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren't much fun. Agent: The Blair Partnership. (Sept. 27)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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