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 (aka 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. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A big novel about a small town...
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?
A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.
"I had come under the spell of a great novel....A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence....This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply." Time
"A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone." People
"This book represents a truckload of shrewdness....There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully...genuinely moving." Washington Post
"A positively propulsive read." Wall Street Journal
"Often entertaining....Rowling does a nice job laying out her 20-plus characters' endless pretensions and weaknesses, which she punctures with gleeful flicks of a surprisingly sharp comic blade." Entertainment Weekly
"Broad-stroke storytelling, a critical eye turned towards class differences and tender moments between friends? That's positively Rowlingian!" The Huffington Post
"Pure Rowling: The author's new novel for adults is Dickensian, straightforward and full of heart. J.K. Rowling's contribution to literature has always been to remind us why we love reading in the first place, and her new novel, The Casual Vacancy, continues the cause...an old-fashioned novel in the tradition of Dickens or his modern-day counterpart Jonathan Franzen...when you finish, there's no denying that you have been told a story by someone who knows just what she's doing." Kansas City Star
"The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read...a stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today." The Mirror (UK)
"A study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot....The Casual Vacancy immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world...intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny." The Guardian (UK)
About the Author
J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, have been translated into 73 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films.
As well as an Order of the British Empire for services to children's literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's Legion d'honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a commencement speaker at Harvard University. She supports a wide range of causes and is the founder of Lumos, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.