Friday, April 12, 2013

Review Me Twice - The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This week, A Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling!  Her first non- Harry Potter book.

This book is incredibly different than Harry Potter.  It's very adult and involved and, well, there's also the fact that it has nothing to do with magic.  Rowling has a lot to live up to in this first, Non-HP book.

In all honesty, I liked HP better.  But... well, I grew up with it.  Harry was my age when they came out, I was the target audience of the books and it's a little like watching a good friend move away when the series ended.  Nothing she ever writes is going to be HP.

Rowling can still WRITE though.  Her characters are intricate and the situations are intense until everything finally comes to it's climax (which... with the exception of one thing, you can kind of see coming from a mile away.  And her vocabulary is magical.  obstreperous, paradoxically, pusillanimous: these are just a few of the words that show  up in her book.  I mean, these are AWESOME words.

This book is made to show the ignorance of people, how quickly things can get out of hand and how nothing is really secret.  Especially in today's era, you're never just talking to one person anymore and secrets are no longer kept.  Rowling does an amazing job of showing this.

Things I didn't like about the book?  It was very slow going.  This book is a slow burn until everything finally explodes.  And that made it kind of hard to get into.  Also, there were just so many characters.  I am usually pretty good about keeping track of people, but even I had to write down all the people just so I would know who is who.  There are fifteen characters who play significant roles, and I didn't even include people who were significant, but they don't really talk.

Honestly, I think it was more that it just wasn't my kind of book.  It didn't really resonate with me and I don't think it had the kind of staying power that HP did.  But then again, what does?

My Bottom Line 3 out of 5

This is a really long book. Like, Game of Thrones long. (According to my library's catalog, the paperback of GoT is 694 pages long, and the hardback of Casual Vacancy is 503. So, not quite.)

Cassy is absolutely right about how it's really slow for a long time. I still enjoyed the slow part, though, and I think it's because there are enough characters to keep track of that it doesn't feel terribly slow, but not so many characters that you get lost. And Rowling weaves the characters together to make them easier to keep track of.

This isn't the type of story I would normally pick up off the shelf (small-town politics and drama in a place where everybody knows everybody and an ill-timed death creates problems regarding who will fill the man's seat on the council? YAWN, right?) but I actually enjoyed it. I'm going to guess that's a testament to Rowling's incredible writing skill, that she could get me really interested in something like that.


  1. I agree that it took me a while to get into it. I also struggled at first with keeping up with the characters. I love her writing style and I felt myself getting emotionally connected to the characters (positively and negatively) even though the basic plot was strange. I had a very clear visual picture of what each character looked like also.

    I did feel however, that she overdid it a bit with the profanity. It was almost like she was trying so hard to prove its not a book for children. Although, I felt, especially by the end that there was a very "pay attention to your children, because they are not alright" theme to it. I hated Kay. I know realistically that just because you have a strong professional life, doesn't mean you have to have a stable personal life, but as a Social Worker, I kept thinking, why are you so stupid? This relationship is dysfunctional and you are not paying attention to your kid! Although, credit for JKR for having an overall positive portrayal of Social Workers professionally.

    Along the same lines, I was really upset there weren't any consequences for Simon. Dude was a bad guy. But I guess that's pretty realistic in a lot of ways. I would be interested in hearing what one thing you didn't see coming, because if its what I'm thinking, I probably agree with you. Its not normally the type of book I look for either, but I actually found the ending powerful in its own way.

    Feel free to private message me because I would love to discuss some details with you.

  2. This is one of my favorite books from this year. I agree, very slow to start, but once you get past the character introductions in the first 60 pages it is much better. I absolutely loved the character study aspect and how no character was inherently good or evil, like in real life, it showed the goodness and the flaws of the human race, of community, and of society. I also love HP, and so read this as if Rowling was a debut author who had never written HP. That helped me a lot to love this book. If we always compare authors to their others works, we can never truly appreciate the work for what it is.