The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I have read that it is too long, there are too many characters, she doesn’t offer a depth of personality in each of those characters, she explains too much, she doesn’t explain enough, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I think if this wasn’t a book by J.K. Rowling people would think it was wonderful (and even if not wonderful then definitely not horrible).

I’m not sure what she could have done to shorten it. By doing so, she would have been cutting out plot points, or opportunities for us to get to know the characters. It’s 500 pages, not 1,000. I’m not convinced that books need to be kept to 300 pages with quick moving plots… anyone who’s read a classic should not blink at this book’s length or reasons for being this long. However, to be fair, I would sit still for J.K. Rowling to tell me about concrete drying. I think she’s an engaging, talented writer and, even after 503 pages, I still wanted more.

As for the number of characters, there were more characters in the Harry Potter books. Pretty much, this book is about a few families in a small town – and yes, there is more than one person per family, but it’s quite simple to keep them straight. Let me emphasize, this novel is the story of a town, and we get glimpses into the resident’s lives for a moment in time. It is not an in depth character study of one figure – however, I felt that I got a good feel for who each character was.

I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps it was because I was prepared for it to be utterly awful, but I thought it was very engaging and was pleasantly surprised. Was it perfect? No, few books are. Could you make it political if you wanted to? Sure, but you can easily get away with reading it without making yourself go that route, just as you can read C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien without making it about religion.  In my opinion, her characters are well developed, her plot is deliciously slow with small climaxes throughout. I didn’t particularly think the ending was quite as much of a twist as others thought, but rather a natural ending, perhaps more realistic than some would have liked, but certainly not outrageous or even scandalous.

I highly recommend this book to people who love feeling as if they are stepping into the story they are reading, being an invisible fly on the wall of other people’s lives, and having a thoughtful story told to them by one of our generation’s greatest living authors.

13 thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

      • Oh I would never hate someone for suggesting a book. But I think I will get it from the library. I just organized all of my books and have realized how many I own that I haven’t read. Made a promise to read more of mine before going out to the stores.

  1. I’m not done reading yet, but I agree with you so far. I may be completely wrong, but I think whether they realize it or not, a lot of people went into The Casual Vacancy with some Harry Potterish expectations…not that they thought it was about HP, but given the success and worldwide acclaim of the HP series, is it really possible to judge this book on its own merit? I don’t know. I wonder if things would have been different if Rowling had published The Casual Vacancy under a pseudonym? I hope to be finished before the holidays are over :)

    • Interesting idea about the pseudonym. I wonder if she decided against it because she wants to be able to move on from HP and continue writing with all of her work under one name. I think this will be the speed bump that throws people off, and she’ll be able to continue writing without people making such a fuss later on. Nothing will be as popular as HP ever again for her (most likely, as most other authors will never achieve that level of success again either), and it seems that she’s come to terms with that – I just wish readers would too! Ha! Glad you’re liking it!

  2. I’ll get around to reading this one of these days. I think I’m waiting for the hype to totally go away? It might not. Ever. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews…I almost wish she had written this under an pseudonym to avoid the comparisons.

    • I do that too (wait for the hype to die down). I thought I had with this one, but now there’s a new wave of people reading it.

      I’m a bit impressed with her for not doing the pseudonym thing. I think it was a brave choice, but one that will serve her in the end even if it ruins this book for some (it certainly isn’t hurting the sales!).

  3. finally, a good and objective review of this book. I saw Rowling on a TV interview and she was really conscious of the fact the people were expecting (yet another) sequel to Harry Potter. I sometimes think she should have writter this book under a pseudonym. On my TBR books it goes!

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