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.
JK Rowling has proved that she is a great writer. She has taken a complex story that interlinks the lives of several families in a small town. At casual glance, the families are predictable. However, once the story unfolds, everyone is shown to have skeletons in their closets. If you read the reviews that say this is a dark comedy, don't believe it. It is more like the dismal stories that Oprah tends to feature. If that is your cup of tea, this is the book for you. The narration is spectacular. The narrator keeps you wanting to go up the next hill in the dismal story.
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.
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 loved it, although I wish it didn't end the way it did. It read like a cross between Skippy Dies and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.
Get rid of the swearing, ugliness of the characters. I suppose there are those who like their reading materials raw, but please, warn the rest of us. I quit after about two hours of is, feeling like I needed a bath.
Publish it under a different author's name. I was expecting some of the lyricism of her other books, and though this was her first "adult" novel, I didn't think it needed to be this ugly. I expected more, or different.
I think the reader did the best possible with the materials. I just wanted to clean out my ears after a while.
Not for me. I would like to get my money back or a refund/credit.
In all honesty it took me a few tries to get through this book. It starts out slow and the author takes her time. The first few times I stopped reading thinking that Ms Rowling was really not reaching me. However, I somehow managed on maybe a 7th try to get through the initial parts, and I cannot recommend this book enough.
The slow start in retrospect does make sense, it sets up the mood for the main point of the book. The banality of the middle class struggle, the author develops characters like no other writer that comes to mind. She makes these regular people interesting through their mundane every day interaction. There is a level of empathy that is generated as the book progresses that is both subtle and staggering.
I think while this is a departure from Harry Potter, it is not a departure for Ms. Rowling. She has a tremendous gift for allegory, for relating her story and characters to the reader. For reaching us where live with things that matter, not statistically or conceptually but where we live without bleeding hearts or over intellectualized gibberish.