The Casual Vacancy – Review

I had pre-ordered this book at  a local bookstore and picked it up on the day it was released. I did this because I did not want to wait for the book to be delivered. I waited very eagerly for nearly 3 months for this book. And what do I get? Disappointment. Yes, I never expected Rowling to come up with something like Fifty shades of Grey. You got me right! it has some horrible sex scenes and usage of vulgar words scattered throughout the book. Every page has so many references to the “F” word. Does adult mean throwing in sex scenes arbitrarily or talking about private parts of the body? I had presumed that she meant a book for “mature” audience when she said she was writing an adult novel.

I did not read this book expecting it to be like Harry Potter. I did not read it thinking it would be a murder mystery or thriller. I knew what I was going to read. I watched her interview where she clearly said that this was a sad book about politics in a small town, more to do with poor people and how people do not care for poor people.

An excerpt from her interview:

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“I desperately needed to write this book,” Rowling said. “Not because I wanted to prove anything, not because I felt I had to write a novel for adults. None of that. You know, people ask me that sort of question a lot. I’ve never sat down to write anything, thinking, ‘What am I proving today?’ Never. It’s just not how I would write…. That was just a story I really wanted to tell.”

She also said that this book is very close to her personal life and there were many things in the book that she had personally experienced (like OCD). She also said that the ending would make us cry. This is what made me read the book. I thought it will be realistic and would have a wonderful story spun by my most favourite author. And I could not be more wrong!

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I liked Harry Potter not because of the story itself, but also for the way it was written. The witty dialogues, her writing style, those amazing quotes and funny lines made me like it. So I became a fan of her writing style. This book was written in the same style and that is what made me somehow finish it. If this story was written by anyone else in this world, I would have given up after 20 pages for sure 🙂

The starting of the novel was a bore, probably one of the most boring bit. I was kind of disappointed looking at how ordinary and dull the narration was. I still forced myself to read. After I read some 100 pages or so, the story seemed to pick up. I now knew everyone in the town and what they were like. She is very good at portraying and describing characters. I already knew whom I liked and whom I did not.

Story:  One of the members of the Parish council suddenly dies and now people are fighting to take his place in the council. There are 3 people in the town who want to compete for that position. I found the politics bit interesting. You can consider this book as consisting of many threads, stories about many families in the town.

Some characters that I found interesting were:

Kay Bowden – A social worker who had been cheated by a man and has now left everything for another man that she is in love with. She seemed like a sympathetic lady and I did like the way her part of the story ended.

Ruth Price – She is being abused and harassed by a monster of a husband. Her character portrayal was very good and I thought of giving 4 stars to this book initially just because of her story.

Tessa Wall – She seemed like a mother in distress but also a nice woman. I liked her part of the story too. Dealing with a spoiled son is so hard and it is something I have personally seen in many cases.

Sukhvinder – Her character was something I really liked. I liked it because her situation was so realistic. It happens all the time around us. I have seen such cases in the movies, in real life.

Other than these 4 characters, I HATED all the other characters and their stories. A girl who is a whore and likes beating classmates has been shown as a great personality who must be sympathized with, which really made me not like this book. Just because someone is poor, they need not go for prostitution. Why can’t someone who is poor take up a job somewhere and work hard, instead of selling their body? I never got that theory. She is trying to say that poor people have to be pitied upon. But do we need to pity drug addicts and whores? At least I cannot show pity towards them and hence I never felt sad nor did I cry while reading the book. Every time something bad happened, I was happy 🙂

Middle portion of the book kept me entertained because of the politics. But the ending was again disappointing. I did not understand the point of the book. What was she trying to say? What was the whole point of reading 500 pages? The lives of some people got sorted out at the end, but the rest of them? It was such an abrupt ending. It was like a mega serial which had no point. A mega serial which dragged on and on for some years and then it was taken off-air since nobody was willing to sponsor the next season.

Overall a very disappointing book, even though the middle portion was good. I give this book 2 and 1/2 stars out of 5.

My verdict: A one time read. Don’t go buying the book. Borrow it and forget about it.

[Spoiler: There is a 40 yr old woman who kisses a 16 yr old boy and her husband just forgives her? Just like that and she is not even ashamed of what she did?  I liked the way Sukhvinder takes her bit of revenge. That chapter had me laughing, even though there was nothing humorous. I liked the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother part the most in the book. If not for that and the politics, I would have given this book 1 star.]

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33 thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy – Review

  1. Well, even others have given bad reviews about this book… Maybe the author should stick to fantasy? The second genre that she is dabbling in, is not even remotely connected to her first, epicly successful genre! But this happens with authors and we can forgive them for once 🙂

    Destination Infinity

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  2. It’s really a surprise, isn’t it? That someone who wrote such a brilliant, rewriting the whole essence of children’s literature, should actually write something like THIS for adults? 😐

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  3. Saw your name on another blog and had to follow the link. Anything to do with the Potter boy, ‘draws’ me in 🙂

    The latter half of your first para sounds exactly like something I would say too. So, shall save myself the heartache of a fav. author letting me down and choose not to read the book. Thanks to your detailed review, (so much for a book you didn’t like ? you ARE committed, aren’t ya 🙂 ) I have enough conv. knowledge should the occasion arise .

    And now, a plug 🙂
    http://momwithadot.blogspot.com/2012/09/harry-potter-kids-stuff-no-way.html

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  4. Spot the book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ in the book store…. quickly take out your wand (no pun intended 😉 )… shout…. Avada Kedavra… Walk away…
    Good review. I was not even planning on reading it… the cover repelled me 😀

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  5. you are right .. people buy/bought this book mainly due to the author’s fame, I guess. There are a lot of similar books that no one even gives a second glance to.

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  6. Hey I don’t completely agree. I finished the book last week and yes, it is quite trashy in parts and it is NOT a page turner. There was a story which made a good read all in all. It was far removed from her previous genre yet I liked the essence of it. One time read I’d say. I guess it’s just one of those kind of books that is better out than in !!

    P.s. I sent you a message through your contact me page as I couldn’t find your email. Hope you got it.

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  7. I’m a huge fan of Rowling but this book is such a disappointment that for a moment I wondered whether it really was her writing ! The unnecessary use of profanity was such a downer. Total waste of our time and the publisher’s money 🙂

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  8. I’m reading your review now after having read the book and must say my opinion is the complete opposite. I loved it. I laughed, I cried, I shook my head in disbelief and felt angry… a whole gamut of emotions.

    Re your gripes, what Rowling describes is the real world where people swear and teens screw each other. Krystal is not a prostitute but given her early childhood history it isn’t surprising that she seeks attachments in the form of casual sex. I see clients like her and Fats and Sukhvinder whose parents are like the ones described. Sure Pagford is make believe but you can see these societies everywhere.

    I’ll be posting my review tomorrow and would love to hear your views. 🙂

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  9. my 2 paisa on this book..

    Why does this book has a landmine of F bombs all over the place? I guess she saw some coen bros movies.

    Anton Chekhov invented a technique in his stories and it has changed the way of writing in all languages, but this book has literally LOADS of it to the point where u lose interest. And they are wayyyyy predictable.

    I donno whether if some one ever will stop potraying prostitution as some kind of dream job or a non existant social stigma.

    Adding an insane troll logic here > Casual Vacancy sucks, so J.K.R sucks, so HP sucks 😀

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    • Exactly!!! why is it loaded with F words?! even I couldnt understand 😦 And they are at places where there was no need for them to be present.. they were kind of forced to make the book look like an adult book..
      “I donno whether if some one ever will stop potraying prostitution as some kind of dream job or a non existant social stigma.” – exactly what I feel
      Casual vacancy sucks, so JKR’s adult book writing skills sucks
      BUT —- HP rocks since she is good at children’s fiction 😀 😀

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  10. I was so disappointed with this book! Sigh!
    And I havent even read it yet!!

    I waited, because when I read her interviews, book summary – I wasnt too sure!
    Then, a friend read it and said it was a huge waste of time and money!!
    So, Im not going to read this and spoil the love I have for her writing.. HP is an all time absolute fave!

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