Tuesday, December 23, 2014

{2014 TBR Pile Challenge Review} THE CASUAL VACANCY by J.K. Rowling

ISBN #: 978-0316228534
Page Count: 503
Copyright: September 27, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

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.

Kathy's Review:
(Reprinted with permission from her personal blog, Grown Up Book Reports)

Talk about high expectations. Rowling had some moderate success with a children’s series, the name of which escapes me right now … Porter? Barry Porter? Anyway, this was Rowling’s first foray into the world of grown-ups, and with a pedigree that included such a beloved series, it’s hard to not expect greatness.


I really struggled to like this book. I don’t know if I ever got there with it. For starters, the book suffers from an ailment known as “TooManyCharacteritis” which is characterized by a meandering plotline including lots of protagonists, leaving the reader confused as to who is the hero at the center of the story. Was it Andrew? Krystal? Each character has good qualities and bad qualities, which I guess is like in real life. But with so many characters (which took me til more than halfway through the book to sort out and remember who was who and married to whom), it’s hard to establish who is driving the story.

The story centers around the death of a member of parish council and the politics and the relationships forged in this small town where everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everyone’s business. From the perspectives of both adults and teens, Rowling provides a complete landscape of Pagford and its intricacies. But at the end, do we care?

Sure, there’s people and events that are recognizable as part of any community. But at 500+ pages, and with an end result that left me extremely disappointed, I’m not sure I would recommend anyone become emotionally invested in this book and its characters. I’m not sure what Rowling was going for, here. In a world like Harry’s, where good ultimately triumphs over evil, I guess I was expecting the “good guys” to win in the end. Not to give anything away, but that doesn’t happen. There. I saved you 500 pages worth of reading. Go re-read Harry Potter, or try her crime fiction written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith, instead.

If I hadn’t been reading this for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge (one more book to go!), I’d probably have abandoned this one mid-way.

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