Monday, 15 October 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Hardback, 503 pages

Published 27th September 2012 by Little, Brown

My shelves: 
abuse, adult-fiction, awful-cover, books-i-own, death, drink-and-drugs, let-down, lgbt-characters, medical-conditions, mental-health, rape, read, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, self-harm, suicide, too-much-hype
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
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?

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

Buy this book:

My thanks go to Little Brown for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don't really know where to begin with this book. Very rarely, I avoid reviewing certain books - I haven't reviewed a few of the big names in books (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games) as I find it very difficult to try and review such widely read and highly acclaimed books. I didn't know whether or not I'd review this one - J.K. Rowling is probably the biggest author out there at the moment and there will already be a lot of reviews for The Casual Vacancy. However, as a dedicated book blogger, I decided that I'd give reviewing this a go! 

Despite the excitement surrounding The Casual Vacancy, I must admit that I wasn't really that excited about it. Sure, I love Harry Potter, but I knew that it would be something entirely different. On the release of the blurb of the book, I was underwhelmed - I thought that the story sounded quite dull and uninteresting. However, the fact that this was written by the Queen of today's literature, I still wanted to try it, at least. All that aside, when it was release day I had the need to get out and buy the book - I just had to have it (I actually ended up with two copies, one bought and one for review)!

Onto the book and the story itself... it's difficult to describe it, really, as I still have no idea how I feel about it - in one way I liked it, but at the same time I hated a lot of things about it. The thing about this book is that the main, interesting events happened in the first ten or so pages and the last fifty or so - this meant that the four hundred plus pages in between became tedious. The story revolves around around the fact that there is a Casual Vacancy in Pagford's council. I have to be honest and before reading this, I had no idea what a casual vacancy was and even after finding out, I don't know anyone who would care if there was a casual vacancy in our area. However, there was plenty of substance and the characters were certainly well developed, as expected. There was a definite history behind the village of Pagford and of the characters who lived there. 

Before I read this book, I read that some people were criticising it due to the adult themes and the amount of swearing in the book - I thought that was ridiculous - why should a book aimed at adults be criticised for such things? After reading, I can understand why it bothered people. I still stand by my thoughts that an adult book should have adult themes - it's not exactly wrong. I can understand why people were uncomfortable by this book. All of us associate Rowling with Harry Potter and a lot of people see her as a gentle figure to look up to. I didn't think I'd be affected, but yes - I did feel weird reading some of the sexual references at first. Thankfully, it was easy to get over after a while and I got used to it. 

However, I do feel as though Rowling was trying to put too many adult issues into the book. I enjoy reading about taboo subjects and serious issues, but I don't like to be overwhelmed by them. Amongst other things, abuse, death, substance abuse, mental health issues, self harm and suicide were all explored in this book. Although very emotive subjects, they didn't weigh me down and I didn't find them hard to read about - but sometimes that difficulty of reading about them is what makes them so effective. I was taken by one of the main characters, Krystal Weedon's case, but she was the only character I could really feel for - though the others were reasonably developed, I found it difficult to empathise with so many characters at once and the rest of them never seemed to grab me or strike me as someone important to listen to or to read about. 

The Casual Vacancy is a very political books, but to be honest, 1. I don't want to get into politics in one of my book reviews and really and 2. this book didn't have a massive impact on me nor my thoughts. Actually, I am not entirely sure what the message of this book was as I battled through most of it. I do think that Rowling made a superb job of putting across the fact that some people are like Krystal and have to live her difficult life, but I don't think the book was very balanced. The Weedon's issues were interesting to read about, but I felt that they overshadowed some of the serious problems that the other characters also faced. 

Overall, I don't think that this is a poorly written book but, for the most part, it bored me. There is so much thrown into this book, but for me, it was certainly not exciting nor particularly memorable. If someone told me that they wanted to read it, I wouldn't discourage them - I realise that there will be people who are into the deeper political messages of this book, but unfortunately I'm not one of those people. J.K. Rowling still stays in my mind as a phenomenal writer with a fantastic imagination and despite my difficulties with this book, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another of her books.

Listen to the song that features most in The Casual Vacancy - I have to admit that I think that every time I hear this in the future, I'll think of Krystal Weedon.


  1. This is the first review I've read on Casual Vacancy, and like you, I love JK Rowling and wanted to check it out just to see what it's about, but I've been hesitant because the description just didn't pull me in. I'm not sure having read your review if I'm anymore excited about reading it or not. Sounds like it's just an "eh...okay" kind of book.

    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

  2. I bought this book the day it came out as well. I still haven't read it yet but I will get to it and see what I think of it. I think your blog is adorable (love the owl). I'm having a giveaway over at my blog so stop on by and enter if you would like! You have a new follower by the way!! :)

    MaMa's Book Corner Giveaway

  3. I've heard that this book is really getting panned by readers. Sorry it was so boring.

  4. I really liked your review because it resolved a minor conflict I was having about reading this book. It's been on my shelf since the day of its release, as I adore JKR, but I hadn't been able to pick it up as yet. I somehow feel perturbed by sensitive topics if they're in great detail and this book seems to have a lot of it.
    I think I'll put this one off for a while (even though I really wanted to review it soon!).

  5. I'm kind of avoiding this book too, really. I don't know it sounds like it's a little all over the place. Part of me does want to read it because is Rowling but at the same time I'm reluctant

  6. I felt exactly the same way - the writing was good, but the actual story was boring. Thanks for the honest review! ^^

  7. What a great review for this, it is a little nerve wrecking reviewing a Rowling book but you really have done a superb job! I agree with you in some of the points, I can't agree with them all as I never finished the book. I never close a book without finishing it, but with this I was so board & confused I had to admit defeat. I'm glad that you had some enjoyment out of the book. And I think I would pick up anything with the authors name on it, just because of HP. :)

  8. huh, this seems a bit disappointing. But it IS an adult book, so people SHOULD expect these things in an adult book. This is NOT harry potter, and yet it does seem hard to imagine Rowling's book having a lot of swear words, it isn't shocking.. Great review dear! I loved how you put in all the things that bothered you! I actually like politics, so that won't be a problem for me ;)
    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  9. I work in a used bookstore, but for the release of this book we got in a shipment. In the first week only one or two sold. I was pretty excited about it and so were my friends, but it seemed that if it wasn't Harry Potter, the general public wasn't sold.

    This isn't the first review I've read that said the book was boring, dull, uneventful, what have you. It's hard for me to imagine JKR and boring being in the same sentence! Given the subject matter however, I can see it.

    I haven't yet read this book and I do want to at some point, but I can't imagine it'll be anytime soon.

  10. Nice review! I kept debating about this one! I was psyched for a book from Rowling, finally! And it was even aimed for adults, but once I picked it up and read the cover back before buying, I wasn't wowed. I didn't feel compelled to buy it just yet. So I thought I'd wait for reviews. And it seems that I may be passing on this one. I trust my fellow bloggers when they say this aspect and such of the book is why I didn't like it. And those aspects are usually important ones to me as well.

    And reading some of these other comments, I am seeing that not everyone is enjoying it. But were perhaps reading it because it was Rowling! Which is what I would've done as well. But with my overwhelming TBR mountains growing near weekly, I have to be choosy about what books to add to it. I may be passing on this one, but as you, will always love Rowling's work!

  11. I have been wondering about this and now I am unsure, I am not a big fan of political stuff even though I do follow politics now that makes sense...not....still I am going to have to check this out just to see for myself, Thanks for the helpful information.

  12. *sigh* This doesn't sound like my cup of tea at all. I hope she returns to writing middle grade/young adult.

    Thanks for the review!


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