Monday, April 15, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

Firstly I'd like to apologize for the unexpectedly long gap in posts, but my exams are finished now!

Also, next week I will have special book reviews to celebrate Earth Day!!

And now...

Book: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

Country: United Kingdom

Description:  When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little 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 fa├žade 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 town’s 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? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. (from

My Thoughts: I was impressed by this book. It was incredibly well-written, although it had a very distinct style from Harry Potter. It was very gritty: Rowling included lots of details about smells and movements and everyday life, the things that make a story seem real for me, and the characters felt so real. There were a lot of them, and they were hard to keep track of (PAY ATTENTION to who's talking--there were some sudden switches), but Rowling wrote each character very well; each person felt distinct. She also did a fantastic job of making all the characters understandable (although there were a few interesting and notable exceptions).

The Casual Vacancy is definitely a story about the darker side of humanity: affairs, rape, cruelty, apathy and indifference, drugs, lies, politics. It is definitely a critique of a society that abandons part of itself. What the description above doesn't mention is that all of the tension about the council elections center around whether Pagford should continue to fund and maintain a drug rehab clinic and a low-income housing neighborhood.

My favorite character by far were Krystal, who felt SO real to me as I was reading. She was such a struggling, hurting teenager, and reminded me strongly of people I have known. Sukhvinder, another realistically struggling teenager, and Tessa come in a close second. I felt that Tessa was the only character who tried to do the right thing and truly tried to understand the people around her. But she also made some bad decisions in the past and still dealing with them. She actually reminded me a lot of the Biblical David.

Warning: The Casual Vacancy contains lots of sex and swearing. It actually didn't bother me that much, (although I skipped all the sex) because most of it felt very intentional. It was used to create a mood, to continue Rowling's attention to detail, and to help us understand the characters better. It is also worth noting that each character is realistic enough that they are not role models in any sense of the phrase. I therefore highly recommend this book, but only to mature readers who can make their own decisions about the characters and their actions.

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