I'm sure, (in the way that someone who has never met or spoken with the author can be sure) that J.K. Rowling was trying to write a book that was as far from Harry Potter as she could get. She had to show that she could do something else. She has certainly succeeded. I don't think that this was supposed to be a light hearted romp at all. It is not. This book is dark and brooding. If you are waiting for the uplifting moment, it never comes. The other side of that is that she wrote this book very well. Part of what makes it dark and disturbing is that she is good at description and she is excellent and setting a scene in small towns in England. I didn't really like the book but I was engaged with it to the end.
The reader knocked this one out of the park! I think that part of what made the book so engaging was that he was reading it. I hope this book lands him a big stack of contracts to perform other books. He needs to do more!
I didn't like the story but it was well crafted.
The story was extremely depressing & slow. I almost fell asleep while driving. The narrator is probably good, but there's not much he could do with this story. I read lots of English novels...not just Harry Potter. I love JK Rowling, but this is just not up to her standards. I tried to plod through, but after starting the 2nd download, I just had to quit.
It was just a very depressing & slow story overall
He was good, it just wasn't good material.
Not really. I wasn't expecting all the bad language.
I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't.
Tom Hollander, yes. J.K. Rowling - NOT LIKE THIS, NO! If they have the same richness and suspense of the Harry Potter novels I enjoyed as I kid, I would.
Anything!? I listened at work and in the car for 2.5 hours. Then, I read other reviews via Google to see if maybe it has a surprise in store. Apparently not. Apparently, she is saying her royalties from the HP franchise allow her to write what she wants. That doesn't mean it's good.
This book - the first 2.5 hours anyway - is comprised of character descriptions of average, stereotypical people in a small town. So far, a guy has died, and people have gossiped about it. Looks like their might be a battle over who takes his small-town political spot maybe. Woohoo.
Language is crude. Rare witty moments.
My mother would call this in movie-format a "slice of life." I can look out my window or at my coworkers for that. If I was READING without benefit of a narrator, I'd not have the desire to turn the next page.
I think she's trying to make a political statement in their somewhere. Descriptions of places or a rainy day are excellent. Not a three-part book I can bear to finish.
I loved her writing. This is like Harry's Aunt and Uncle's daily life along with that of their friends and neighbors. Nothing more. Depressing (social service visit of a drugged out mother etc.).
Narrator was awesome. Not sure how he stayed awake though... Since I'm giving up 2.5 hours into this without an understanding yet of which of the TWENTY characters is which, I can't vote for a favorite performance of one...
Just cut the plot... Wait... ADD a plot!
This is the ONLY negative review I've ever written. I've only returned one other book (and that just wasn't my cup of tea, so I didn't review at all).
I don't often write book reviews. In fact, I think this may be my first. But with everyone writing in about how terrible they thought this book was, I thought I'd chip in my two cents.
I thought about not reading this book due to the terrible response it was getting from die-hard J.K. Rowling fans. I didn't want this book to change my opinion that Rowling is one of the best writers out there, as it seemed to be doing for so many fans. I thought about it. I'm glad I ignored them all.
This book will not please everyone because it wasn't meant to. It's like a Tarantino film. It's gruesome, it's hard, and in that way, it is a realistic representation of certain aspects of life as many people experience it in this world. And, like a Tarantino film, this book draws these same hard aspects of life out to such an extreme that it seems to glory in them, making you feel like it's just a little too much -- what? Too much to handle maybe, or too much to believe, or possibly... too much like your own life to really be enjoyable.
The thing that makes the Harry Potter story so fantastic is that it is, actually, painful to the point of being diffult to bear. My childhood memories are flecked with grief drawn by Rowling's pen. I remember where I was when Sirius died, and Dumbledore, and Snape, and (fleetingly) Harry. I felt real, hard, human grief over a character. I mourned the death of -- what? Dumbledore was never more than a cluster of words on a page. How could I feel real feeling at this fictional loss? Still, I remember my dad explaining my sombre expression at a family function. "She just finished the sixth Harry Potter book," he said, and it was all he needed to say. They understood because they'd felt it themselves.
That, truly, is Rowling's power. She has the unique ability to make her readers really feel what her characters are feeling. When a character dies in her books, it can feel like a character in our own lives has passed away.
I would suggest that she has actually honed this power in writing "The Casual Vacancy." Harry Potter was able to escape the post-trauma pain that followed him by throwing himself into school work, solving the mysteries of his world, or exacting revenge.
Escape is not an option in Pagford. Though many of the characters think about getting out, and some try to, their endeavors are always somehow thwarted. Ultimately they must each turn and face the things that make their lives difficult.
It is not an easy book, but then, I don't think Rowling has written an easy book since "The Chamber of Secrets." It is an enjoyable read, if you are the kind of person who doesn't mind walking around in the shoes of people who have difficult lives for a while. "The Casual Vacancy" is complex. It constantly encourages its readers to form opinions about characters and organize them into neat little cubby holes. Then, again and again, Rowling throws those opinions into a vortex, leaving us to try and pick up the pieces of our misconceptions.
Like Zadie Smith's "White Teeth," it's a brilliant reflection of society. You'll like it, if you're the kind of person who isn't interested in an escape.
I don't think this could have been made into a 4 or 5 star book. I couldn't finish it. It was long, tedious, and difficult to continue. The story was very slow in developing.
She should have added some wizards, teenagers, and a boarding school. Trying to move from adolescent fantasy to adult fiction doesn't work for her.
I would recommend this book to SOME friends, but not all. The story is about a town, not a protagonist. Like in HP, Rowling weaves many characters together in a compelling, multi dimensional story. Some people might be frustrated by the nebulousness in such a story. Others, like myself, see this as a reflection of real life.
Hollander brings a british authenticity that brings the story to life for a Yank like myself. His tone, tied with Rowling's british stylings, drench this book in a beautiful modern british feel.
Rowling doesn't create stories. She creates human, relatable characters and sets them loose in the little town of Pagford. While this is elegant and natural, it may not satiate some reader's need for good/evil.
I did not like any of the characters or care about their problems. I kept listening because it was JK Rowling but I give up . I'm too old to waste anymore time with people I don't want to spend time with.
What genre? ?part of the problem?
yes I felt bad for him having to read this.
Anger because I did not care for these people and I kept listening hoping for it to change.
I've never read any J.K. Rowling, since I don't really like children's literature (or even young adult), but thought her writing might have something to recommend it since so many youngsters rave about her books. Also, as a mystery/thriller fan, I'm usually bored by mere daily-life stories, so really stepped outside the box on this one. It starts with a death and ends with about the saddest funeral scene ever, which are commonplace enough; but what goes on between those pages was amazing. No murderers, but one serious plan and one guy who thought he himself was one. How did J.K. invent a personality like that? Plenty of intrigue, too, so I didn't really miss the mystery.
Plus, Tom Hollander is such a great reader I hardly noticed him at all, which is how it should be. I looked for more books read by him, but guess he's too busy being an actor to narrate much. Figured he must have something else going on, or there would be hundreds I think.
I don't know how J.K. could create a sequel, but will be looking for more like this.
It seems like she's biting off a bit more than you're willing to chew - perhaps too many intersecting stories, perhaps a wavering narrative, going to and fro between characters and their thoughts, in a rather unoriginal way, with the disgruntled poor, the midlife crises, the teenage angst, the disconcerting revelations of growing old and of growing old with someone else; all items checked. But in the end it all seems to come together - predictably, yes, so really no surprises along the way; but still, a reliable story and a respectable writer, all in all.
former nuclear scientist
All is not right in the Muggle world. Or so I thought with annoyance as I listened to the first chapter. The gritty, profanity-laced small town England Rowling has created here and populated with bitter, ineffective, or downright destructive characters feels more like a screenplay by Guy Ritchie than a novel of the most beloved children's books of our generation.
But then I left my own prejudices behind and got drawn into the story. Those unpleasant characters have backgrounds, those angelic characters have nuances, that society of interlocking stories is bolstered by shared small-town history and weakened by private secrets. Once the politics of the "casual vacancy" - a vacant town council seat caused by a casualty, or death - is established, the story comes alive with concerns and machinations of myriad characters. Even the smallest characters are more than sketches, but fully fleshed out in a brilliant combination of internal monologues, regard by other characters, and external descriptions.
The politics of the small town serve as a framework for clashes and alliances among the factions fighting to either preserve or destroy the vision advocated by Barry Fairwater, the man whose death causes the vacancy, and whose shadow hangs over a surprisingly large portion of the town. Within this framework, Rowling explores the effect that grownups have on their children, and the lengths to which people will go to feel significant. Although I was put off a bit by the frequent, lacerating profanity, I have to concede that this book is a masterwork of fiction.