Literature / Personal Opinion

REVIEW: J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

When I heard J.K. Rowling had published her first ‘adult’ novel, A Casual Vacancy, it went straight to the top of my ‘to read after uni list.’ [I use the phrase ‘adult’ novel in reference to the directed audience, rather than the content- it’s not THAT kind of adult novel.]

Although I will be far from alone in saying it, I am a HUGE fan of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and I struggled to put any of the books down. In fact, the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released the day before our holiday in 2007, and my family became increasingly annoyed with me because I spent the first two days of the holiday reading the book and refusing to participate in any activities or conversation (which was strange because you usually cannot keep me out of the swimming pool).

So I had high hopes for The Casual Vacancy despite having no idea what the plot may be.

I’d like to say I was equally thrilled by her 2012 novel, but that would be dishonest. But don’t let that discourage you from reading the book. It was  enjoyable, and although I wasn’t drawn hook, line and sinker like the Harry Potter books, I (again on holiday) didn’t really put it down until I had finished it. Perhaps Rowling’s powers of enchantment were still in force from my childhood.

I think the problem lies with the fact that the author of the novel is Rowling herself. Having been such a fan of Harry Potter, my expectations of The Casual Vacancy were just too high.

If the book was written by a different author towards whom I held no biased opinion, this review would probably be slightly more positive. The novel begins with the death of local councillor Barry Fairbrother, and I found the story hard to follow at first, as it switches from character to character, in turn from perspective to perspective and plot to plot. However, I eventually got used to ‘who’s-who‘ and began to familiarise myself with the characters.

For some, the novel may be hard to stomach. Although humorous at times, parts of the story are harrowing to say the least. Rape, prostitution, drugs, pornography, self harm and suicide are all themes which feature in the novel, and are not for the faint-hearted. And if you thought you could find solace in a happy ending (without totally ruining it) I’m afraid you will probably be mistaken.

I felt sympathy towards some characters, and disdain towards others – probably exactly what Rowling had planned when she wrote the story. At some points in the rather lengthy novel I could predict exactly what would happen next; at other parts of the novel I was taken by surprise. I preferred the focus on the plots involving the teenage characters (clearly what Rowling does best), whereas I wasn’t so keen on the plots with political focus, as these were the parts where my mind would begin to shut off ever so slightly.

To put it bluntly, although The Casual Vacancy was a relatively good read, and is almost certainly recommendable, it simply isn’t, and never will be, “Harry Potter”.

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4 thoughts on “REVIEW: J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy

  1. Pingback: Revamped story #7 | The Fantasy Central Channel

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  3. Pingback: First World Problems: How J.K Rowling ruined my childhood | The Blog That Made No Sense

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