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Jul 122013
 

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy

When Barry Fairweather 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 façade 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

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  3 Responses to “The Casual Vacancy”

  1. 1,400 of 1,522 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Peyton Place meets PG Wodehouse. (Yes, I read it. No, I haven’t read HP.), September 27, 2012
    By 
    Joni L. Rodgers (Houston, TX) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Kindle Edition)

    Throwing in my two cents as one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t read the HP series. (My kids were the perfect age as the books came out: young enough to love them, old enough to read for themselves.) I pre-ordered THE CASUAL VACANCY and inhaled it the minute it hit my Kindle mainly (I will admit) because it’s a remarkable moment of publishing history, but I was quickly drawn into the story. The characters are people I already know, because they are the people we all already know. In the end, I liked this book on its own merits. And I liked it a lot.

    Rowling is a terrifically strong writer; you can’t fault her on craft, and I like that she doesn’t feel the need to do any acrobatics or post a billboard – THIS WAY TO THE BRILLIANT WRITER – on every page, as is the irritating case in a lot of literary fiction. If you’re able to set aside the JK ROWLING of it all, you’ll love or hate this book on the strength of what it says about people. Folks. Relationships that are the opposite of magic. Politics that are petty. The youthful compulsion to crusade – at any age – and the crusty compulsion to squash the crusading of others.

    Early on, it’s noted that Samantha “enjoyed [Miles'] pomposity with precisely the same spirit as she liked, on formal occasions, to wear a hat,” and Rowling is able to enjoy the faults of these characters the same way. These are the characters Franzen would write if he had more tenderness and less literary dyspepsia. Observations about resonant, everyday dynamics – conversational currency, backhanded charity, the lie of self-sacrifice – are made with more wry than sly and not a whiff of self-righteousness.

    This is a quiet book; some will say cozy, but I think there’s enough edge to prevent that. I loved the dry Britcom humor. A thousand little understated zingers make THE CASUAL VACANCY a pleasure to read in the way that the Mapp and Lucia books are a pleasure. As life unravels for the people of Pagford, we have a goldfish bowl view, but that understated tone keeps things from going totally soapy.

    A book that kept coming back to me as I read was Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. I can’t think of another instance where an author from whom so much was expected took on the profoundly risky task of reminding us that there is nothing more human than the mundane.

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  2. 372 of 402 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Brilliant, Disturbing, Not for Everyone, October 8, 2012
    By 
    Simply Keith (New Mexico, USA) –

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)

    Having read some of the more negative views, I have to say this: Would you have ranked “1984″, “The Bluest Eye”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, or “Great Expectations” so badly? Guess what, some of the best stories aren’t fun-filled light reading! Some of the best works are disturbing, even sad. So, if your view of literature is that a book can only be worthwhile if you can breeze through it having a fun adventure, then don’t bother with this book. This is something else entirely.

    That said, “The Casual Vacancy” is a disturbing character study. It is written in third-person omniscient point of view. It does require some effort to handle a story with some 18 or so viewpoint characters, so this book will be at too high a reading level for some. I normally don’t like the omniscient POV, but this story had to be told that way and Rowling handles it with expertise.

    So, what is this book about? It is about pain and cruelty and why people become cruel. There are no traditional protagonists or antagonists, just people going through life. Rowling explores the various ways that people become cruel, angry, or jaded with each main character showing a different form of cruelty and a different reason for it. And, this book is about the people that get hurt by other people’s pain and anger.

    This isn’t an easy book to read, probably the reason so many have reviewed it negatively. But, this is a brilliantly written book, just not for everyone.

    I highly recommend this book to those who want to read something thought-provoking and actually about the real world. But, if you want some light reading that you don’t have to think about, then stay away from “The Casual Vacancy”.

    To those who reviewed it negatively because it wasn’t like Harry Potter, I can only ask whether they were paying attention. Rowling explored many of these themes, hidden behind the window dressing of fantasy, in those books. That is why Harry Potter was not just another of the countless stories about magical children. She continues this exploration in “The Casual Vacancy”, but without the magic and without the restrictions of children’s literature.

    Edited to add: I realize that Rowling has described this as a dark comedy. I don’t know why she has said that. Perhaps she had intended this to be a comedy, and there are some satirical scenes, but it grew into something else as she developed and revised it. Whatever the case, I saw very little that was humorous in this book. I did greatly appreciate the book, but I don’t know why she would claim it was a comedy, dark or otherwise.

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  3. 622 of 708 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    No Vacancy, September 27, 2012
    By 

    This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)

    The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling is perhaps somewhat of enigma. I, just like countless thousands of other readers was so curious about what this author would come up with after so many hugely popular Harry Potter books. This book was in a way, refreshing, and in a way disappointing. Let me explain.
    I knew going in after watching the news coverage on the release of this book, that it was intended for adults. I also knew that it was a…bit off the beaten path, particularly when held in comparison to her previous books. I think that is where we reviewers may be going wrong. As much as we swear we will not judge this novel off of previous books by this author, the magic and wonder of her previous series is steadfastly and stubbornly locked in our minds.
    I did my best to lay Harry and his magical friends to rest when I picked up “The Casual Vacancy.” So from here on I will not mention the previous series again.
    What I loved about this book: This book was funny at times, sad at others and moved along at a good enough clip to keep my mind occupied. I thought the town was great, the characters were sharp and the writing itself was very good. I liked that the author told the fans what she wanted to write this time rather than beat a dying horse to death and stick with the program.
    I liked that the ending left you wondering certain things and yet answered the most important things. I thought the book was well edited and intelligent, regardless of the subject matter.
    What I didn’t like: (Attempting to do this without spoilers) I really couldn’t see how some of the material in this book could be considered as coming from a comedic standpoint. The opinion I got when watching the pre-release coverage for this book was that it was supposed to be tinged with comedy. Some of the issues in this book are just plain depressing and not at all what I would have considered a topic to laugh about.
    I found an undercurrent throughout this book that strangely, made me hate it for the same reason I loved it. I felt as though the author went to extremes trying to prove that she could write something other than young adult fiction, that in an odd way, made the writing came out a bit juvenile.
    I also felt that the author spent a bit too little time on description and a bit too much time pondering the macabre. Perhaps it was just me, but I came away feeling a bit dry. For me, this book was like sitting on a hilltop with your camera poised on a beautiful sky waiting for that perfect sunset. All of a sudden, your expectations are shattered when a huge cloud moves in front of the sun and ruins the shot. I expected so much for a book that was five years in the making. I did not feel this book measured up to that expectation.
    J.K. Rowling previously said that she would not want to talk to anyone who did not cry at the end of this book. I hope I am not the first to disappoint her, but Not a single tear did I shed. I seriously came away feeling casually vacant.
    To those of you who are moaning and groaning over the prices of the kindle books and leaving negative reviews…it is wingardium leviosa….NOT Wingardium Levi-o-sahhhhhhh. Read the book before you judge. I did.

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