Monday, November 12, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
Release Date – September 27, 2012
Publisher Website –  Little, Brown and Company
Publisher Social Media -  Twitter
Pages -503 pages
My Rating- 4/5
**Provided by publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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?
When it was announced that JK Rowling was going to release another book I, like most people, immediately freaked out. My thoughts quickly turned to what an adult novel by JK Rowling might be like. The Casual Vacancy is a unflinchingly real, sometimes darkly funny, and well written novel that showcases why JK Rowling is a true talent.

Those looking for magic and wizards might be disappointed, however this novel is one clearly written by Rowling. The writing is pitch perfect for the genre, and similarities in how the story unravels can be found in both. Rowling’s talent is that she can write and make us care. We cared about Harry, Hermoine and Ron, and ultimately we come to care about the town of Pagford, The Fields, and it’s residents.

The characters in this novel are fully fleshed out. They are achingly real, and raw. They are as deeply rich and complex as real people. People are flawed, and sometimes messy. Rowling’s ability to observe and recreate this in her novels so vividly stunned me. This story is one completely about the characters, rather than the plot.

Using the characters and plot Rowling is willing to shine an uncomfortable light on society. The reader will most likely identify with someone or something in the novel, admitted or not. I can see this novel making people squirm due to it’s unflinching honesty about people and the ways in which we hurt ourselves and others. Some readers may find it too grounded in the realities of life. This novel doesn't shy away from the dark aspects of life, just as it celebrates the things worth living for at the same time. A novel that deals with rape, drug use, child neglect, and yet also has gossip fueled housewives, declarations of love, and humour.

The writing is strongest when focusing on the teen aged characters. The wrenching portrayal of a teenager spiraling deeper into depression and self harm is especially effective.  Each of the teenagers stay with you long after you've read the final pages.

The ending, while very sad, is fitting. It shows that life moves on in the face of unbearable loss. The Casual Vacancy may present itself as a dark comedy but it really is a character driven look at society. The truth behind the notion that what goes on behind closed doors is hidden from the rest of society is examined. It’s these hidden truths that Rowling has put front and center by tearing off the curtains and allowing us to peek into the windows.


  1. I'm glad you liked The Casual Vacancy. I think it's next up in my TBR and I was a little nervous because there's been so many mixed reviews. But you have made me excited to read it again!

  2. I agree with Christa. It's also on my to-read list I've read more bad than good reviews. I'll check it out :)

  3. This is a beautiful review, though I wasn't the biggest fan of this story (it just wasn't for me) I do understand what you mean about the characters staying with you after you've read this book. The idea was very real but it took me time to get through this book. Glad you really enjoyed this one :)

  4. Despite mixed reviews, I still want to read this. And I live how you described the ending, sometimes HEA can be overrated

  5. I felt the same way about this book. I was super excited about a new JK Rowling novel. Luckily I went in with the expectation that I would be disappointed because so many early reviewers said Potter heads would be so I was pleasantly surprised that all though it wasn't a Potter book it was all JK Rowling. Great Review:)


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