Say something about yourself!
A good friend of mine refuses to read (or listen to) this novel because--as an avid Harry Potter fan--she is afraid that doing so might taint her positive perception of J.K. Rowling's authorial talents. I had the opposite response: being a fan made it impossible for me NOT to find out what The Casual Vacancy was all about. At the outset, I want to say that I very much appreciate the irony of the title. The vacancy of the Pagford parish council seat generates a ripple effect through the "pretty little town" and its citizenry that is anything but casual.
In a recent interview with Cynthia McFadden, Ms. Rowling said that the themes in which she is most interested as a writer are "morality and mortality." Certainly, readers of the Harry Potter series are familiar with her treatment of these themes, and we see them again in The Casual Vacancy--which begins with the latter and resonates throughout with the former. We also witness again Rowling's skill at creating characters that quickly capture and maintain our interest, and we recognize her sometimes subtle, but at other times rather didactic, social commentary.
J.K. Rowling did not need to write this book for the money it might make, and she definitely ran the risk of compromising her authorial reputation in publishing it. I'm sure there will be some readers who do not appreciate a few of her less savory characters and dark, not in the least fantastic, plot twists or the decidedly non-Harry Potterish language. However, given her background as a woman who once lived on the "benefits" that the U.K. provided her, I have to believe that writing this novel was a labor of love, and I, for one, am an even bigger Rowling fan than before.
This is pretty good, although Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter can hardly be beaten
The fact that he let the story come to life without annoying accents or acting
The Casual Vacancy is not a great book, but certainly a good one. Although the descriptions of the Field and its inhabitants are lengthy, they bring home the hopelessness and squalor. Then again, the well-off have problems of their own and are caught in their situations as well as the people in the Fields.
I found the atmosphere thoroughly depressing. That goes to show that this book involves its readers.
Read to perfection by Tom Hollander, narrating in an understated way to allow the listener to feel the full impact of the words and deeds of the characters in this small town.
As has been said before this is very different in many ways from Harry Potter. However, the later HP books were darker and dealt with people's prejudices, festering emotional baggage, jealousies, abuse etc and all the novels share JKRs extreme attention to details so that I could really see the characters and the town so clearly as she cleverly describes through the eyes of the other characters. The themes in this novel can be seen in Harry Potter, depression, dominance, betrayal, homosexuality, anarchy, they simply are not so much at the fore.
This is a further iteration of the English village novel, however, it is not the usual bustling celebration but more the cracks that lay ugly and seeping below the beautiful chocolate box like veneer. The complacency, hypocrisy , selfishness, narrow-mindedness, ignorance, prejudice, abuse, double standards, ignorance and sheer unpleasantness of the great majority of the inhabitants of Pagford,nr Bristol, is a constant challenge to your senses. I found the story to be somewhat of a large heavy boulder slowly rolling down the hill. It starts off with the death of Councillor Barry Fairbrother and we are shown how his death impacts on certain members of the town in less than flattering ways. It takes quite a long time to get into all the characters and what they are about but suddenly, about 100 pages in, you begin to see what is going on and the boulder moves along swiftly.
JKR brings forward some characters who are rarely encountered, and insists we notice them standing blinking in the spot light. Most notable is Krystal, school age daughter of a drug addict, resident of a 'sink estate' as other people in the village would term it, foul mouthed, sexually promiscuous, and the carer of her 3 year old brother. She is both brave and desperately in need of affection. She is so very vulnerable and sadly misjudged by most of the village. Her expectations and dreams are so small and basic hey alone shout at the reader to care and open their eyes to what goes on around them. Krystal is one of a range of teenage characters who JKR is able to present persuasively, as if from the inside. Others include Sukhinder, a self-harming Sikh girl, from the only Asian family in the village; Andrew whose crush on Gaia is brought to life with complete conviction and who brings back vivid memories for the non-teenage reader; Gaia herself, exiled from London by her single parent mother's move from Hackney, privileged by good looks and sense of coolness is enraged by her mother's unpleasant boyfriend and uprooting her at the age of 16; and 'Fats', whose lacerating wit covers his unhappy home and hatred of his father. The families that these young people live in are mercilessly exposed by JKR as nests of mutual dislike, infidelity, abuse, rape, backstabbing and cruelty. Spattered amongst these parents are more likeable and emphatic characters who help cement you there.
JKR shows through the characters treatment of each other both sympathy and often contempt. Rowling's authorial presence dominates the narrative, imposing moral judgement, left and right. The narrative deliver's punishment to the wicked and then to the innocent as is JKR's way... she does not shy from gritty subjects. Most of the characters descriptions come from other peoples' minds and can be rather unflattering at times but extremely vivid. These descriptions become layered throughout the book as more people describe the character.
By the end of the book I really did care, especially about the children for whom JKR has a special insight and for the 'Fields' folk, who are so completely p******d on by the comfortably off. Judged and abandoned they were getting by as best as they could, surviving being victims of victims. No one walks out of this novel unscathed but there are some surprises in there. As we saw people's malice spring up from jealousy, avarice, anger and fear of what others might think, I had to pull back and just observe ... letting all judgements go was necessary. The last chapters of the book were especially real to me as they were told through the eyes of one of the teenagers, we were led away from the facade of an adult ritual and into the truth of who Krystal really was, her essence and more importantly what she could have been if more Barry Fairbrothers were out there championing and believing in people. Krystal's expectations and dreams are so small and basic they alone shout at the reader to open their eyes.
There is a wellspring of compassion in this author that is welcome in the world of contemporary fiction. While JKR has joined the higher echelons of wealth, her attitude appears to have not been altered. She no longer has to write, a nd is brave to set out after Harry Potter to stake a new claim, although I felt this is a cathartic process for her at some level. I hope she does so again, as she has something to tell us and hopefully if even the smallest part of these adults resides within us we will recognise them and ask the to leave the building..
She did such a brilliant job of the Harry potter series, and this book was just boring.
Tell us about yourself! I am gainfully employed as a language teacher. I love a good murder mystery along the lines of Gilman, Connelly, etc
The book is a tapestry of human lives and how it is interconnected, directly or indirectly.
The author had successfully woven a connection between families centering to the death of one of its members and how this death affected everyones opinions of themselves and others around them. It exposes hidden agendas, quest for power, misconceptions, and hidden fears. The author is quite adept in using dark humor to show a point about its characters.
When one of the character's son posted in the internet to prevent his father from running for the city council position. The author's construction of the event leading up to the posting of the abusive father's dirty laundry was well laid out. You really feel sorry for Andrew's family situation, and how the whole event mushroomed to the consternation of the affected people.
The author excellently put everything together to its sad conclusion: the death of Krystal and her baby brother. There you see the conflicts, anger, loyalty, forgiveness, remorse, and other human emotions at play, and the lessons learned from the events that had just unfolded.
I listened and read the story simultaneously, and yes it was hard to put down.
To all who commented that this book is boring, perhaps not enough attention is put in order to really grasp the essence of the book. I did not find it boring, as a matter of fact I loved it! This book has social issues, ie. healthcare, drug addictions, and political issues, i.e. budget cuts in education, jobs, healthcare, that are at play in our government and cities today. Though the author concentrated on the small town of Pagford, the financial woes it faces is as true today in our current economic situations. I would say that it is relevant in what is happening today in our government and how it deals with our economic and social problems. Thank you, J.K. Rowling for writing about social and political issues in the form of a novel.
It was a good listen. Not as good as Harry Potter and I wish some of the language were not so crude. But the subject matter was such that type of language would be used.
I didn't really have a favorite. They all made assumptions and acted on them, took things way to personally. Generally they all needed therapy! But it was still a fun listen. She did a great job with her first Adult book and I would listen to the next one!
I would have preferred it to have been in US so the politics and slang would be easier to understand.
J.K. Rowling’s follow-up novel to the Harry Potter series doesn't have a witch, wizard, house elf or centaur in sight. The setting for this book is completely earth-bound. The only garden gnomes you’ll find are of the ceramic variety, sitting on the (mostly) well-manicured lawns in the tiny fictional West Country parish of Pagford. This is where Rowling sets her latest book, which chronicles the pandemonium that ensues when one of its well-placed citizens, Barry Fairbrother, dies suddenly, leaving his parish council seat vacant in the midst of a polarizing boundary dispute that has the townsfolk warring amongst themselves.
The ensuing scramble for Barry’s empty council seat becomes as dirty a campaign as any sprawling metropolis can proffer. Pagford’s citizens have plenty of secrets and dark sides, indiscretions (past and present), family feuds, class warfare, high school bullying and dire domestic circumstances which, thanks to some computer hacking and an ever-present small-town gossip brigade, don’t stay hidden for long.
Rowling’s deft ability to draw complete, multidimensional characters, who are neither wholly good nor wholly evil, is legendary from the Potter books (was there ever a more flawed, occasionally feckless hero than Harry Potter?). She continues that tradition here. Every character is perched on the brink of destruction and/or redemption, and the story moves quickly through the events that seem designed to test them all to capacity. She cleverly uses the mundanity of very small town life to set off real problems that real people have every day, that when you’re seeing them from the inside, seem bigger than one life can hold. The voices of her characters are true and believable, especially among the teenagers. She doesn’t get overly cute with her descriptions of their world (she is most certainly personally acquainted with the experience of raising a teen), and she manages in the end to avoid an ending that’s pat and definitive. The book begins in media res and ends pretty much the same way, presumably because that’s how life begins and ends.
Tom Hollander's narration is seamless and consistent, and his character voices are well acted and easy to listen to.
A satisfying, face-paced novel with humor and intelligence, Rowling has proven she can write outside of Hogwarts, with an eye for an older audience.
this book is very slow and the narrator doesn't do a good job. I only listened to the first third of the book and couldn't get into it. I expected alot more from her. I think she should stick to kids books.
I tried, I really tried. I even restarted it a couple of times, but this book was not funny, it was not entertaining, and it was not intriguing. Sorry Ms. Rowling, I know you can do much better, but this one is a stinker.
The characters here were just not interesting enough to care about
There wasn't a favorite scene, they were all boring
sorry, but no
I wished I waited for the reviews before I purchased. The amount of language is iritating. I listened to the first hour hoping it would improve. Then the reviews started to come in. I don't think it will be worth my time to continue. If this were a physical book, I would return it.