Saturday, 13 October 2012

Review - The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
By J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0316228534
Pub. Date: September 27, 2012
Pages: 512


J. K. Rowling is one of the most successful writers of all time due to her Harry Potter franchise becoming a worldwide phenomenon. I was a bit surprised when she announced that she was writing an adult book instead of another children fantasy series. The moment she made the announcement the pressure for success was on her.

Every fan, every reader, and every critic are expecting another Harry Potter, but in reality what we get is a small town drama with a bit of dark humor mixed in. The book is getting mixed to negative reviews from critics and fans because of the sudden change in genre. J. K. Rowling warned everyone that she was writing a different kind of book.

Why is everyone so disappointed?

Let me tell you the plot of The Casual Vacancy.

The book opens on a Sunday evening  in the small English town of Pagford where Barry Fairbrother drops dead! His wife, kids, and friends are mourning his death, but not everybody cared for him. You see Barry was on the town council and now because of his death there is a casual vacancy. In other words, his spot on the council is open and there are citizens that would die to fill it. In Barry's control, prior to his death, was the rough part of town known as "The Fields" and the lease to the local drug clinic, which are both now up for grabs. The three men interested in the seat are Cubby Wall (Barry's friend and deputy headmaster of the school) Simon Price (He's a hateful man, especially toward his teenage son, Andrew), and Miles Mollison.

After reading several reviews, I saw that readers were comparing this book to the Harry Potter series, which is completely unfair in my opinion. You can't compare a children's book to an adult book. It’s like comparing Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to her adult book Wifey. The two books have nothing in common except for the fact that they are written by the same author. I started reading The Causal Vacancy as is, keeping Harry Potter far from my mind.

How did I like it?

That's a tough question, because it took me forever to finish reading it. J.K. Rowing is one of the greatest authors of our generation. She is a skillful writer. I would even compare her writing style to Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. The Causal Vacancy is filled unlikable and flawed characters. The only character that I even liked was the teenager Krystal Weedon, who is a drug user, swears like a sailor, and will throw a punch at anyone that ticks her off. Her mother is pathetic excuse for a human being as she is heavy into drugs and is neglecting Krystal and her little brother, Robbie.

The Causal Vacancy is a dark twisted satire of our society and how people will do anything to get what they want.

Will there be a sequel?

Considering the negative reviews, I highly doubt it, but the ending leaves it opens for future installments.

After reading the book I'm left with a sour taste in my mouth. Yes, it is beautifully written, but it is quite boring with way too many characters, actually there is not even a main character which is part of the book's problem. I respect the author decision to write something completely different than anyone would expect. The Casual Vacancy will never be considered a classic and it will probably never be adapted to film or television. The book is not for everyone. Your have to read it with an open mind. In the end, I neither liked nor hated the book.



  1. I think it's unfair to make a connection or difference between the Harry Potter series and this one, just based on them being different genres all together. People who read this expecting it to be as good as Harry Potter, or even run along the same lines, well, no wonder they're disappointed. People should be more objective, like you have, when reading this book. Don't compare and don't expect miracles.

    Great, honest review.

  2. I completely agree with everything you said. I enjoyed The Casual Vacancy and you are certainly right about the incredible writing, but there were simply too many characters and half the time I was completely confused about who was who. Crystal Weedon was also my favorite character, but overall I thought the teenagers were much more fleshed out than the adults. Regardless, as you said, she's a brilliant author and I'll still buy anything she writes.

  3. The Casual Vacancy was a very far cry from Harry Potter. The writer has used an incident, namely a death, to bring out the social and political dynamics in a small fictitious English village. There is a scenario that would typify almost any rural community that is wholly weighed down with matters of local importance. The outside world does not matter to the inmates.

    The story is meandering and moves at a relaxed pace and it is not devoid of drama.
    The novel brings out the passions, the hatred, rivalries and resentment that fester in minds of the adults and children. Perhaps this pattern of interaction is applicable to all of humanity if only the scale were to differ. Every character is ensconced in his or her own little world and interacts and thinks accordingly. Maybe all humans are self centred to a large extent be they in a village or a metropolis.

    The feel of the book was nice and gossippy and one can easily lose oneself in it. However it did have its sad, even tragic moments.

    All-in-all the book is quite brilliant from one of the most evocative authors of modern times.

  4. After reading about 70 pages, I abandoned "The Casual Vacancy." And then after a year, I recently took it up again and managed to go the whole hog. If you could wade through the first 100-odd pages, you might find the proceedings interesting. Sure Rowling has an eye for details and is a good chronicler of human foibles. But then there are many authors who could write this kind of stuff. It is obvious that Rowling doesn't want to be remembered only as the Harry Potter-author, and "The Casual Vacancy" appears to be her fervent attempt to break free from that image trap. And it shows. The beginning is slow paced and one requires immense patience to read through it all, as Rowling rolls out one character after another, piling details upon details. The middle part is engrossing as the plot thickens, so to speak. But again, the ending is rushed and insipid. The sudden change of Fats is unconvincing and appears forced. The long and short of it is, you should forget that "The Casual Vacancy" is by the same author who wrote the 7-volume Harry Potter series. But then, you wouldn't have in the first place bought this book if it had not been by the Harry Potter-author.


I love comments from my readers! However, I will delete all spam and irrelevant comments.

*Note - I reserve the right to remove comments from the blog. Please leave comments that are useful and respectful.