Monday, October 8, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Book:  The Casual Vacancy 

Author:  J.K. Rowling 

Grade:  A 

Recommended To:  Everyone, not just Harry Potter fans.   This book is NOT for kids! 

In case you didn't know, J.K. Rowling has a very prolific past as the author of the Harry Potter series.  I have only read through book five in that particular series, because the last two books came out when I was in college and who has time to read for fun in college?   So, I missed the ending.  One of my dear book club friends is slightly obsessed with HP and so she chose this book as the October book pick.

I could not have been happier with this book.  The Casual Vacancy is a gritty, in-your-face story that leaves you alternately wishing for more and hoping it would be over so you finally shake the uncomfortable feeling that this cast of characters gives you.  The book is about Pagford, a small town that wishes to eliminate the not so savory poverty and drug addicted citizens by eliminating the methodone clinic and by rezoning that area back to the town of Yarvil.  That way, the rich kids won't have to go to school with the poor kids and Pagford won't be polluted by poor.    This whole controversy comes to a point when Barry Fairbrother, the leader of the faction decidedly against rezoning, dies suddenly and the sides compete to determine who should fill his vacant council seat.

This book is so excellent because it is realistic.  This scenario could play out in any number of small towns across America.  It is particularly poignant because of the upcoming American elections and the polarized opinions surrounding assistance programs and the view that they are either a leg up or a hand out.

This book as some excellent character work.  The characters are developed quickly and many of them have deep layers and motivations for their actions.   Even Barry Fairbrother, deceased, is developed as a character through his relationships with others.  At the close of this book, you feel like you know Barry just as well or better than some of the others.

I cried at the end of this book.  The ending is incredibly well done and without spoiling anything, it wasn't a happy ending because it couldn't be.  The book would have lost some serious authenticity if everything had turned out roses and sunshine.  This book is about relationships and the bottom line is that not all relationships can have that somewhat unattainable silver lining.

I've read some of the recent views on this book and it seems like everyone just wanted Harry Potter the later years, or Hogwarts, books of spells.  Or whatever.  This public desire has generated some not-so-stellar reviews of this book, which honestly shocks me.  The Harry Potter series was no doubt wonderful, but can't Rowling get a break?  After the movies, the books, the supplemental reading, the publicity, I'm sure she just wanted to write something realistic and heartfelt.  And, that is exactly what The Casual Vacancy was.

I loved this book and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a gritty, realistic, and heartfelt story.

Happy Reading!


  1. Great review! Will definitely give this one a read. Had been eyeing it up in the store just yesterday actually :) Thank you!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! I hope you love the book!