My review of The Casual Vacancy

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-05-2005
My review of The Casual Vacancy
Wed, 10-17-2012 - 6:30pm

When I brought this book home I tried to keep an open mind because I really wanted to like this book.  Really, really wanted to love it.

In her first book to be published post Harry Potter, JK Rowling shows that she is a solid writer.  The story revolves around the inhabitants in a small English village called Pagford.  When one of the town's leading citizens dies unexpectedly it leaves a vacancy in the town council that both sides of warring factions scramble to fill- not the most riveting plot line.  Still, my biggest problems with this book are:

a.  The characters are not very likable. The most likable character in the book is the one who died.  I'm not saying that I have to love all the characters, but it's a lot easier to care about the story if I can find some redeeming qualities about the people in the story.  

b.  The book is really gritty.  Not that grit is a bad thing but at times I felt that the raunchiness was there simply because JKR wanted to prove a point- i.e. "I am a serious adult writer and this is a serious adult book.  If you're looking for Harry Potter, you're barking up the wrong tree."  

c.  It was boring.  B.O.R.I.N.G.  It's not the worst book I've ever read, but after slogging through all 600 or so pages, I was really hoping that there would be some sort of redeeming ending.  Alas, after closing the book my first thought was, "what was the point?"  

After reading the book 1 1/2 times (sorry, I just couldn't make myself finish the re-read) I was forced to ask myself, "If this book had been written by anyone else, would I have picked it up?"  And for me, the answer is no.  Not that I don't like novels about ordinary people living in small English towns- I love Rosamunde Pilcher.  She's a master of weaving complex story lines from various points of view.  If you've have never read The Shell Seekers or Coming Home, you're missing out.  The bottom line for me- JK Rowling's tale of life in suburban England left me longing for Hogwarts.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-20-2004
Thu, 10-18-2012 - 9:02pm
Thanks for the review. I won't bother.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008
Fri, 10-19-2012 - 10:43am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book; I heard much the same from a friend who read the book also. But since our tastes differ, I was waiting to see what you thought of it. Being a big fan of Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher, I was hoping this was along a similar vein.

But that's ok... maybe writing it was something she was meant to do, if for no other reason than to give it a try. I think it's great that she challenged herself by stepping outside her comfort zone, but I hope she views it as not a failure, but rather a reenforcement of where her true talents lie.