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Review: The Casual Vacancy

November 2, 2012

Councillor Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly leaving a “casual vacancy” in Pagford’s parish council.  It seems that half the town wants to fill Barry’s seat and the other half wants to keep them from doing just that.  The fight for that seat seems to bring out the worst in everyone.

I’ve been excited about The Casual Vacancy ever since I heard J. K. Rowling had written an adult book.  While I didn’t expect it to be like her Harry Potter books, I did have high expectations that may have been difficult for anyone to fulfill, and this book just didn’t live up to them.  When all is said and done, I didn’t have strong feelings for this book one way or the other – it was just okay for me.

I appreciated Rowling’s writing and enjoyed the peek into life in a small English village, but there were so many characters many of them weren’t well developed enough for me to get attached to them or even remember who they were.  Most of the characters didn’t have any redeeming qualities and I found it hard to believe that all of the people in the small town of Pagford were that mean and petty.  I wasn’t surprised that so many of them were interested in the power a council seat would provide them.

The Casual Vacancy is long and rambling and took a while for me to get into.  Once I did, I was interested in the book but didn’t find it overly compelling, if you know what I mean.  To be perfectly honest, I feel like the book would have been better if a hundred pages or so had been edited out.  Pick this up if you’re interested in politics in a small English town.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books. I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
41 Comments leave one →
  1. sandynawrot permalink
    November 2, 2012 6:33 am

    I’ve read a number of reviews and summaries, and I haven’t been inspired. The only thing inspirational is that she has re-emerged after Harry Potter, and we love her for that and are wiling to throw her a bone and hope she can rechannel the magic. This is very disappointing!

  2. November 2, 2012 6:37 am

    I had a hold on this one at the library, but after reading a few reviews, I decided it was most likely not for me. I appreciate your take on this one.

  3. November 2, 2012 6:46 am

    Sorry to hear this hasn’t lived up to hopes and expectations. I wonder how British readers have reacted to it.

  4. bookingmama permalink
    November 2, 2012 7:15 am

    I’m not sure what I’ll do about this one. Your review certainly doesn’t make me want to run right out and read it, but I am curious.

  5. November 2, 2012 7:18 am

    I have been looking at so many reviews and most of them are a bit lukewarm. Am disappointed as I was looking forward to a stunner of a book.

  6. November 2, 2012 8:30 am

    I hated this book a lot more than you did, and I live in a small town–people can be mean and petty, but it’s not their defining characteristic, as it is in this book. I’m still considering what Sophisticated Dorkiness said about how they might be grotesques in the style of Flannery O’Connor, though.

  7. November 2, 2012 9:00 am

    The other reviews I’ve read state similar things. Nothing about this book appeals to me.

  8. November 2, 2012 9:36 am

    Hmmm. I do like reading about small English towns, so I might pick this up. I’m just not sure I want to be disappointed by Rowling, so I might just wait a while to pick it up. Thanks for the honest review 😉

  9. Beth Hoffman permalink
    November 2, 2012 10:00 am

    Sadly, I’ve not heard anything about this book that makes me want to read it, so I’ve removed it from my list. *sigh*

    Hope your weekend is a nice one, Kathy!

  10. November 2, 2012 10:03 am

    I was excited by this one too, but the early reports weren’t good. I think that she strayed into an area that wasn’t her forte, and it led to a weak book. I’m sorry you didn’t love this one, but I am glad for your honest opinion, as now I am sure I will not read it.

  11. talesofwhimsy permalink
    November 2, 2012 10:04 am

    More and more I think this is a pass for me. Great honest review.

  12. November 2, 2012 12:02 pm

    So many people have said similar things about this book. We’ll be reading it for my book club in January so I hope I can get through it 😉

  13. November 2, 2012 12:09 pm

    I have been avoiding this book as I think my expectations are too high. Like you, I don’t expect it to be like Harry Potter but I expect so much else from it & don’t want to be disappointed!

  14. November 2, 2012 12:11 pm

    I haven’t heard much positive about this one!

  15. November 2, 2012 12:16 pm

    I don’t think I’ll be reading this one, my pet peeve is too many characters to keep tract of in a book.

    • November 2, 2012 8:09 pm

      I agree, a lot of characters can be fun if they are relevant but if they are just there to be there you waste a lot of time trying to remember irrelevant details.

  16. November 2, 2012 12:50 pm

    Too bad — I’ve just gotten this from the library as I like unsavory characters — but if they’re sort of flat… :/

  17. November 2, 2012 1:15 pm

    I had the same experience. I went into the novel knowing that it was going to be different, and I didn’t expect much but it was too flat for me.

  18. November 2, 2012 1:30 pm

    I ended up liking the book more than I thought I would in the beginning, but it really is a very different kind of book.

  19. November 2, 2012 1:59 pm

    I’ve heard so many not-so-good things about this one that I’m going to pass on it for sure.

  20. November 2, 2012 2:35 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been holding off because it’s about small English town politics. The premise just doesn’t blow my skirt up.

  21. Carol Wong permalink
    November 2, 2012 3:06 pm

    Too bad. On the bright side for me. I never won it!

  22. November 2, 2012 3:13 pm

    While it worked for me and I enjoyed it, I agree that there were a plethora of characters. It took me a while to get it all sorted out, and then I ended up really liking it. I can completely see why some like it and some don’t, it’s a very polarizing book, no doubt.

  23. November 2, 2012 3:41 pm

    I think I’m going to pass on this one. I haven’t seen a review yet that really praises it.
    2 Kids and Tired Books

  24. November 2, 2012 4:42 pm

    I can’t say that it sound that compelling

  25. November 2, 2012 6:09 pm

    Kathy, thanks for your succinct and honest review of this popular book. Enjoy your weekend. 🙂

  26. November 2, 2012 7:04 pm

    I listened to this on audio. It might’ve worked better on audio than in print. It was no Harry Potter. Definitely not a magical book but a Muggle book.

  27. November 2, 2012 7:30 pm

    It’s funny because I kept seeing all of these horrible comments and reviews and was thinking, “Surely it can’t be that bad…” and then I only made it 100 pages into it before I decided I didn’t want to read any more of the horribleness or those people’s lives.

  28. November 2, 2012 7:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience with this book. I don’t think it’s for me at all. Harry Potter is a hard act to follow I guess.

  29. November 2, 2012 8:06 pm

    I’ve been curious about this one. I appreciate your review and your judgement. I can now skip this one.

  30. November 2, 2012 8:10 pm

    Sadly, this is the same tune that everyone seems to be strumming! Maybe JK will eventually redeem herself, but I don’t think I will ruin my current impression by reading Casual Vacancy. Have a good weekend everyone!

  31. November 2, 2012 8:47 pm

    I’m about 100 pages in but am enjoying it (as much as a person can enjoy a mostly dark negative novel) …I’ll hold out my final verdict till the end 🙂

  32. Patty permalink
    November 2, 2012 9:01 pm

    I just have the feeling that I dont want to read this one at all!

  33. November 2, 2012 10:56 pm

    Too bad this didn’t work out for you. I think I’ll pass it up.

  34. Beth F permalink
    November 3, 2012 7:26 am

    I have this in audio but I haven’t really felt the desire to start listening.

  35. November 3, 2012 1:17 pm

    I have this on audiobook but haven’t started listening yet. I’m averagely interested in small English towns…! I’ll let you know what I think.

  36. November 3, 2012 7:50 pm

    Yours is the second review that I read about this book just not delivering! Thanks always for your honest and thoughtful review. I’m pretty sure I’m going to pass on this one.

  37. November 3, 2012 10:27 pm

    I have been waiting to read a completely honest and thorough review of this one before investing the time and money. Thanks for sharing what you thought! I’m going to save this one for long, boring weekend.

  38. November 4, 2012 8:19 am

    I haven’t decided whether to read it or not. It was nice to read your spoiler-free review to get a sense of the book.

  39. November 5, 2012 12:13 pm

    I was going to listen to the audio, but with all those characters, and quite a few not too glowing reviews, I cancelled my spot on the library wait list. I can’t think of too much worse than small town politics right now… my TV has been inundated with political ads this week and I’m sick of them! Maybe sometime in the future I’ll give it a whirl.

  40. November 5, 2012 11:52 pm

    This seems to be what a lot of bloggers are saying. At least the ones who bother to finish it at all!

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