Author: J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Published: Sept 2012
Source: Borrowed from a friend
My Rating: 4/5
Pagford is a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and gossip is hard to miss. When Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies, everyone is affected, especially as this means there is a ‘casual vacancy’ on the town Parish Council. Told through the viewpoints of a few families, we are shown how politics can change the face of a town, even when everyone is simply trying to live their lives.
I admit I didn’t know much about The Casual Vacancy before I picked it up, other than who the author is (I think everyone can relate to that), and that it was full of profanity. Due to having heard a lot about the latter, I was expecting to be hit in the face with swear words, but honestly, I barely characters, and therefore blend naturally into the storytelling. For me, this was a huge bonus as I don’t have an issue with swearing, as long as it is not used purely to be controversial, which I don’t believe it was in the this book.
There are quite a lot of characters, yet I didn’t have any trouble knowing who was who (a couple of times I had to stop and think when a parent uses the first name of their teenage ‘Stuart’, but everyone else refers to him as ‘fats’.) While this story could probably have been told with fewer characters, I actually enjoyed being able to see multiple points of view throughout the narrative, and therefore felt more understanding of almost all the characters.
While this book is, in a sense, about politics, it is more an example of British social structure within a small town. However, saying that, the main problem I had with this book (and why I didn’t give it 5 stars) was that I couldn’t really relate to the social viewpoints and experiences of any of the characters. Of course, it would be impossible to have lived every version, and that is one reason why I enjoy reading – because it allows us an internal view of other people – but I couldn’t really find anything to relate to with anyone, which kind of made them feel more like stock characters, even though they were more than 2-d versions. I’m not exactly sure why I felt so unattached, but it did ruin the overall affect of the book, in my opinion. Personally I feel The Casual Vacancy would work better as a film.
The book was fairly enjoyable, though I felt the ending was a little contrived. J. K. Rowling kept the style everyone enjoys in Harry Potter (simple and easy to read), and I certainly feel more confident in wanting to read more of books, and hope she continues to create unique content.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for something that puts the current social and political climate into perspective for individuals. However, I feel that it could also be enjoyed by anyone wishing to expand their understanding of how certain events can affect everyone around them, either directly and indirectly. As stated, this book does contain profanity, as well as addressing things such as drug use, rape and underage sex – if these themes aren’t to your taste, you probably won’t enjoy the book as much.