Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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The Casual Vacancy

Written by J.K. Rowling
Published by Little, Brown and Company on Sept. 27, 2012 
Genre: Adult Fiction, British, Town Politics 
503 pages 

*Warning potential spoilers*

Barry Fairbrother suddenly dies in the British town, Pagford. Fairbrother was on the Parish Council for Pagford and now individuals are running for election to fill his position. There are disagreements about the changes that should take place in Pagford. The main issue concerns whether the Fields should remain within the Pagford boundaries. There are social class stereotypes between those living in the picturesque Pagford with cobblestones and individuals living in The Fields who are believed to be a lower social class. Everybody has personal secrets and grievances against others. Unique characters live in Pagford and somehow each connect. For example: a teen has a crush on a young woman whose mother is the social worker for a drug using mother whose daughter has sexual relations with a different teen whose father is the headmaster at school whose doctor has a daughter cutting herself because the headmaster’s son often bullies her. Confused? That’s just one small example about how the many individuals in Pagford connect. How will the town election change Pagford? Will the town’s secrets be made public to affect the vote and daily life?

If I saw the book cover and read the short description I wouldn’t give this book a second glance. I will admit the only reason I read The Casual Vacancy was because it was written by J.K. Rowling. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything like Harry Potter, instead I wanted to read another genre with her writing. In fact, the writing is so extremely different from her previous writing that I often forgot who the author was. Let me warn you this is definitely an adult book. It contains swearing, bullying, drug use, domestic violence, cutting,  rape, child neglect, sexual situations, political scandal, and social class issues. I mention this because the Harry Potter series was read by both children and adults, so the content should not be assumed okay for all age levels.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy the book and I had to force myself to finish it. I think there were too many characters and the plot was often dry and not exciting. I had to read over half the book before the plot fully formed and it gained some momentum. Rowling did a good job connecting characters and providing their different perspectives, but I think she almost tried too hard.  Yes, life often isn’t perfect and individuals have personal struggles and desires, but I think too many issues were thrown into the book. It was almost as though she made a check list of every possible issue (drugs, sex, violence…) that individuals may have in a small town. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay reading harsh subjects but I think the issues in this book lacked substance and depth. The conclusion left many unanswered questions.Would I recommend this book or read the book again? No, but unfortunately I know most individuals are like me and will be reading The Casual Vacancy because of its author. I give Rowling high praise for writing something in a new genre for a different audience. If you enjoy small town conflicts, social issues, and British humor then you may enjoy The Casual Vacancy.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

    susanbright said:
    November 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I have yet to read any of Rowling’s books. After reading your review I think I will start first with Harry Potter.

      Caroline responded:
      November 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      Yes, don’t base J.K. Rowling’s writing from my one review. I love Harry Potter and have read the series many times. Tell me what you think if you read any books.

    creative1975 said:
    November 5, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I haven’t felt the desire to read any of the Harry Potter books, but I did watch the first three movies and lost interest after that. My daughter liked the first few movies too, but wained thereafter. I’m glad you reviewed this! and it does sound confusing and I suspect quite tiresome trying to keep up with the characters and plot. I think I will give it a miss! and I absolutely agree with you – it will sell well because it’s Rowling’s first adult only fiction to be published! Great review – thanks!

      Caroline responded:
      November 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      I just gave my honest opinion about the book. I honestly don’t think it’s that great, but some individuals have given it high praise. I love when people state it’s a good book even before they read it, since they enjoy Rowling’s other books. The books are ALWAYS better than the movie, but Harry Potter isn’t for everyone. Thanks for you comment.

    eof737 said:
    November 9, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for your review. I bought it for the same reasons and found it a little bit wanting…

      Caroline responded:
      November 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      I’m glad I read the book, since many people will be discussing her ‘adult’ book. I also know I’m not going to read the book again. Thanks for your comment.

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