Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Description (from cover):

“A big novel about a small town…

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 facade 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 at 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?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.”

My thoughts:

          So this is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, as it has been widely publicized and noted for months preceding the publish date of this novel. It is impossible to not compare this latest book to her claim to fame with the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling has writing skills that are widely acknowledged to be unlike any other author known. Her use of details and descriptions can create a world where imagination knows no bounds. Knowing this and knowing that it was going to be near to impossible to not compare the two, I tried my hardest to remain open minded and not to let the Potter series to get in the way of reviewing this novel.

         “The Casual Vacancy” is set in a small village in the English countryside, where everyone knows everybody and gossip is rampant. The novel features many of the townspeople and their struggles from day to day in their lives. I don’t think that there was one character in this book that didn’t have major flaws. Every single one of Rowling’s characters have some major issue that they are dealing with and no one is who they seem to be. Barry Fairbrother’s sudden death leaves a vacancy of the highly political parish council and leads to a special election where townspeople turn against neighbors and friends to bring each other down and try to get their pick for the seat to win. As the book description states it is clearly townspeople at war with each other and they will stop at nothing to make sure their favorite wins.

         J. K. Rowling could seriously write about dirt and make it interesting. She has a writing style that immediately draws me in. This novel is not about imagination or rosy outlooks on life. There are bitter and harsh subjects to be dealt with, crude language at times, and subjects that will make some people uncomfortable. I applaud Rowling for taking some serious and controversial matters and approaching them in a way that only she can get away with. Was this the best book ever written? No.

       Because the inevitable comparison will be made, I will address my thoughts of this versus the Potter series. Does it even compare to the brilliance of the Potter series? That can only be answered by the reader, but do not make the assumption that this book is anything like the Potter series. This is book is the antithesis of Harry Potter. This book is definitely not written for children and deals with very adult situations and has an almost vulgar and very bitter theme to it. Do not pick up this book and expect the same style of writing that Rowling has been previously lauded for. It’s almost like she went from one extreme to the other and depending on how you feel about the story and the characters and the issues that each one of them has will determine whether you feel that this is a flop or not. Personally, I enjoyed it because it made me think about some very controversial issues and to be honest, I would have read this book anyways just because of the name of the author. Most people who read this book will be reading it for the same reason. If this book had been released before the Potter series, I feel that she wouldn’t have reached the level that she has an author. This book has nothing to do with the Potter series, but it has the Potter series backing it up and that is what is selling copies. Simply put. Some people will be disappointed and some people will accept the book as a novel that stands on its own.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: N/A
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 27, 2012
Pages:  512
Genre: Fiction

 Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind.  All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

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