The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Hardback, 503 pages
Published 27th September 2012 by Little, Brown
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.