Book Review

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

Title: The Casual VacancyBook Review The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

Author: J K Rowling

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Genre: Tragicomedy, Fiction

First Publication: 2012

Language: English

Major Characters: Barry Fairbrother, Mary Fairbrother, Howard Mollison, Shirley Mollison, Samantha Mollison, Miles Mollison, Krystal Weedon, Terri Weedon, Colin “Cubby” Wall, Tessa Wall, Stuart “Fats” Wall, Andrew Price, Ruth Price, Simon Price, Gavin Hughes, Kay Bawden, Gaia Bawden, Parminder Jawanda, Sukhvinder Jawanda, Vikram Jawanda, Robbie Weedon

Setting Place: Pagford (United Kingdom)

Theme: Social issues, Politics and poverty,

Narration: Third-person alternating point of view


Book Summary: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

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?

Book Review The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling
The Casual Vacancy family tree illustration by Sarah Braud

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

My desire to read this book stemmed purely from a love of J.K. Rowling’s previous work (You-Know-What). I knew to expect something different as it was stated categorically that her new book was for adults. Once the book was out, I heard a number of bad reviews. However I was not disappointed with this book. I can understand the responses because of the theme and some of the scenes are gritty with some unpleasantness, very real-life and honest.

In The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling has made a successful transition to the real-world. Especially when she gets into the minds of 16 years old boys is class. All human traits are here – love, hate, anger, romance, betrayal, envy, jealousy (you name it) all taking place in the aftermath of the untimely death of a parish Councillor. All of the characters in this book are flawed, some seriously. You will find yourself casting judgement on an individual, only to have your opinion receded by the next chapter. Gritty and controversial themes are explored throughout. This is a great story-telling.

“It was strange how your brain could know what your heart refused to accept.”

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling appears to be set in a nearly perfect setting: a small town where people know each other and have for generations. This is a town that is not war torn, is not fighting a famine or dangerous gangs and is not facing a spiraling out of control crime rate. This book does not have an external pressure affecting its characters or a complicated plot line. What this story comes down to is just the people appearing on the pages of the book and how people live their lives, how people treat each other, and what motivates them to act.

The story is told from the alternating third person point of view a large number of characters. In the beginning of the story, it first appears that all of the characters are somehow involved with one main character that has died. And yes, while that is true they have that in common, that is not really the point – the point is not their connection but their own individual stories.

“The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, was being ashamed of what they were; lying about it, trying to be somebody else.”

The characters in The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling are each trapped in their own universe of interests, surrounded by their own self focused motives. They cannot seem to see beyond their own pain and struggles and because of this, they don’t see those who truly need help. There are heart-breaking scenes in this book, but they are essential to go through because it is a forcing of the reader to notice the pain of others – in a way that many of us probably do not in real life. The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling provides an amazing lesson to each of us and is inspiring.

The problems that I had with The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling was that, at the beginning I felt that Rowling just dumped all these characters on you, expecting that you just individually remember each person. It was a bit overwhelming. Also the novel’s a bit long. The plot does sag at parts and really can’t sustain 500 pages. I felt that you could skim a couple of chapters and it really wouldn’t make that much difference to the overall plot.

“Choice was dangerous: you had to forgo all other possibilities when you chose.”

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling is not an adventure tale nor is it a story with a beginning, middle and end. It is a window into the lives of a small town – the readers get a glimpse and then it is over. Readers looking for a tight resolution, a beautiful and satisfying end, and the triumph of good over evil should not attempt The Casual Vacancy. They will be disappointed.

Buy Now: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

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