I kind of feel bad for J.K. Rowling. She had phenomenal success and garnered millions of fans worldwide with her wonderful Harry Potter series. (And, I might add, she had the courage and willingness to end it after seven books instead of going on and on like some authors and ruining a perfectly good series.) So now, when she dares to write a completely different kind of book (a Muggle book about Muggles doing Muggle stuff), I don’t think she’s getting a fair shake because it is almost impossible to read this book without thinking of the Harry Potter books. As HP fans will quickly realize, this is nothing like the Harry Potter books. (I think my friend said it best when she said “it’s a book about the Dursleys.” If Harold, Shirley and Miles Mollison couldn’t pass for Vernon, Petunia and Dudley Dursley, I’ll eat my hat.) So let’s forget Harry Potter and talk about this book.
The book starts with the death of Barry Fairbrother (which brings about a “casual vacancy” on the parish council). The rest of the book focuses on the fallout from Barry’s death and the maneuverings to fill his vacant seat. Moving from character to character (and there are lots of characters), Rowling takes us into the hearts and minds of the various citizens of Pagford—from its teenagers (Crystal, Fats, Sukhvinder, and Andrew) to its grown-ups (Miles, Samantha, Kay, Gavin, Tessa, Harold, Shirley, Parminder). The plot is relatively simple (how will the vacancy on the parish council be filled?) yet also intricate and complex. Every little thing that happens builds on something else, and, at the end, Rowling weaves all the pieces together masterfully. It isn’t a happy, fun or uplifting book. It is set squarely in a world where things don’t always work out, people fail each other, and relationships aren’t always satisfying. But, for all the misery and anger and cruelty in the book, I saw moments of hope and forgiveness and growth. Personally, I liked the book and was never bored by it. I could see why people who read this book solely because of their love of Harry Potter might be intensely disappointed. It is nothing like the HP books, but it is a good read on its own merits. So, if you can forget everything you already know about J.K. Rowling and go into this book with an open mind, you might find a novel worth reading. I know I did.
An audible book benefits from a few very clearly developed characters. Rowling has created a town with about 20 characters whose personalities and quirks are revealed in time. However, it requires some concentration to follow each character initially.
When I sorted them out, I enjoyed the story immensely.
The reader excels at telling the story and I was sorry when it ended.
I thoroughly enjoyed my listen, but I don't listen to any audiobooks a second time. I would definitely listen to other audiobooks narrated by Tom Hollander. He was outstanding.
The way she showed the interconnections between people, the clever dialogue, the realistic portrayal of small town politics and gossip, and the keen insight into the various personality types that lurk behind the facades people erect to fool their family, friends, and neighbors.
Andrew's feelings anytime he was around Gaia were finely-drawn. Nobody understands writing about teenagers better than JKR.
All politics is local.
Fantastic writing. If someone like Eggers or Franzen had written this novel, it would be the toast of literary critics everywhere. The backlash against Rowling for her success and for not writing another Harry Potter--I can't understand if it is jealousy or misogyny. Probably a little of both.
I was a bit wary because of some bad reviews on the site, but downloaded anyway because I'm a fan of JKR. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Yes, there was a bit of a slow start to the story, but the third act paid off big time, and had me in tears.
JKR manages to make even the mundane and quotidian salacious.
It takes a while to get going but I think it's totally worth it in the end!
OK, so maybe it's not going to be a timeless classic a la Eliot's Middlemarch, but the structure is the same and the writing is really quite enjoyable and insightful. Rowling takes on the psychology and motivations of over 15 characters in a small English town and paints each one with a brush both critical and compassionate. Unlike Eliot, she doesn't necessarily give you the ending you want, but draws the logical conclusion based on the people and circumstances. I was absolutely drawn in, rooting for everyone and no one at once. The realistic and complex portrayals of parent-teenager relationships as well as relationships of social class were thoughtful without being maudlin.
At first I couldn't tell if I was enjoying the book so much simply because the narration was outstanding. By the end I had to admit that the story itself is truly unique and compelling. But I am so glad I listened to this book. Hollander was able to communicate each character with just subtle inflections of his voice. The performance was flawless, I could see the story unfold as if I were there.
This one is top shelf. I drive long distances and make it a rule that I can only listen when I'm in traffic. I broke the rule with The Casual Vacancy.
Clearly Ms. Rowlings has studied the human condition. Her depictions of personalities, human behavior, internal suffering seemed spot on. Providing a gamut of emotions and often humorous account of social situations was beyond entertaining.
Narrators can make or break a book. Tom Hollander was a joy to listen to as he had so many English dialects down pat.
Please don't think that this is remotely Harry Potter - although they were lovely. This is for big kids.
The way she wove the fragile adults and their personalities among the teenagers and their growing pains.
Each voice was so clearly distinct. No confusion. All great Brits yet so diverse.
Tough one! I enjoyed them all, but Samantha hit a home run as the unhappy middle aged woman losing her looks and frustrated with the reality of her life. She was fun to conjure up an image.
I wish it were longer. The ending was certainly surprising.
The story and the way the writer understood them and was able to convey them
Barry Fairbrother. He seemed to be the only truly compassionate person in the story.
Pleasing voice. He didn't try too hard to do different accents etc.
Name is perfect.
J K Rowling is a wonderful writer.
yes and i did
the red house
great, and funny
no it take a little more listening to figure out out the characters
this also goes for the host by Stephanie meyers. STOP ASSUMING that their next book is suppose to be like the last. Deal with it.
Good for JK to branch out and do something different.
If you go in expecting a masterpiece, then you will most likely be disappointed. Just start it with an open mind and be prepared to enter a world full of entertaining people. It's a funny read. I loved the character development.
This certainly must capture modern life in a small British community. I am hardly an expert on that, but, lets face it, J.K. Rowlings certainly is. It matters little, though, where the story is set. Needless to say there is many secrets and scandals hidden in this ordinary town. There is sexually explicit parts in the book , and violence, and sexual violence towards children, drug abuse, self harm etc etc.
I have to put this at the top. I am huge on character development, and I felt she did a fantastic job of doing this. As I finished this book, I was sad to leave behind these folks, wanting to know what would happen later in their lives.
I honestly can't compare it to another.
He is by far the best narrator I've experienced so far. His inflections kept me every bit as invested in the characters rather than rip me out of the story as other horrid narrators can do. His performance did a great story the justice it deserved.
Absolutely Crystal Whedon. She needed to know how strong she was.