I flip-flop between business and fiction books to keep me grounded in reality while still keeping my childhood love of fantasy firmly intact.
Like "Jude the Obscure," by Thomas Hardy, this is NOT a happy story, but unlike that book, which I absolutely HATED, I really enjoyed "The Casual Vacancy." This story of a small town in western England has hardly a hint of romance, but plenty of foul language, death, sex, betrayal, and drug abuse; there's even a bit of incest, just for good measure. Everyone has their problems, but all the people mentioned in this book have serious amounts of disfunction.
In the end, all the people that come out of the situation relatively unscathed aren't left any better than they started. And, again, this was a GREAT book, because Ms. Rowling tells the tale in a way that makes it a fun listen. It left me thinking, "My life's pretty darn good, comparatively speaking."
I don't, however, recommend this book for anyone under the age of 30. You need some perspective to be able to read this book and not be effected negatively by it.
That all being said, I'm hoping for a sequel! There are a lot of characters here that I want to follow to find out how messed up their lives will become as they try to deal with some of the things that were unresolved!
HEARTBREAKING, DARK, INTRIGUING
YES - especially ones with children
It would be Kay
This book was not great, it was sad, once I got two thirds into it, I had to find out what was going to happen. I found the book hard to follow so I purchased the audio book which was MUCH better. The narrator was great! The voice of Howard sounded just like Hagrid! I think JK did an EXCELLENT job on her first book after Harry. Nothing could have come close and to expect it too was pure fantasy!
I had to be talked into the Harry Potter phenomenon, but once I got into it I became obsessed. So, naturally, I was hesitantly hopeful about Rowling's foray into adult fiction, even though I was still mourning the end of the Harry Potter books and films.
I am mourning Harry Potter no longer.
Don't get me wrong. This is nothing like the Harry Potter books, and if you're looking for a children's book or even an adult fantasy book, this isn't the one for you. However, if you're looking for a complex analysis of a small town, with incredibly profound character development, and shifting viewpoints that illustrate the human weaknesses behind each of our personal and political views, then you will not be disappointed.
About halfway through, I tried to slow down, not wanting it to end, but eventually I just gorged and finished it. Rowling is an incredible storyteller, and her carefully crafted characters will stay with me for quite some time.
The narrator is good as well, and though I don't have a keen ear for accents, there was a difference in classes when he spoke, which rang true to me.
No one can say that J.K. Rowling cannot conjure up a good story, and the Casual Vacancy is most certainly a good story. The plot is every bit as intricate and twisted as any of the Harry Potter books, the characters are fully drawn and believable, and the action keeps you in suspense, waiting for the multiple threads of narrative that Rowling lays out to align and spontaneously combust. You can feel that explosion coming early in the book, as layer after layer of the peaceful veneer of small-town life in the English countryside is peeled away to reveal the simmering cauldron of anxieties, neuroses, overblown egos, class and racial tensions, and suppressed rage that lies beneath.
This is most definitely a novel for adults, with sex, drug abuse, profanity, rape, suicide, and difficult adult situations replacing the wands, brooms, creatures, and spells of the Potter series, but I suspect that there is much here for the 18 to 20-somethings who grew up on Potter to dig into. Much of the action revolves around and is driven by several teenagers coming to terms with adult feelings and adult responsibilities while struggling to deal with adults in their lives who are at their mildest somewhat whacky and at their worst very dangerous. Guess who turns out to be the heroes?
This was an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable listen, made all the more so by the skillful and sensitive narration of Tom Hollander.
I didn't want to read any reviews before reading this book. I wanted only to have my own impressions first. During the first third of the book, I wondered where Rowling was going with this story. But like a train, the book picked up speed as it went along. When I reached the end, I went back to the beginning and read it again--just in case I had missed something.
This is certainly not a book for those who thought that HP Book 4 was too dark. This one is often dark, grim and gritty. Most of the characters are not really likeable--at least not at first. Then you get to know the back story...or you see a flash of tremendous courage in a person who seemed weak and useless. And slowly, you begin to see these people in a different light. It is as Sirius Black said, "The world isn't divided into good people and Deatheaters." (Or something like that.) The world Rowling created is complex and difficult and many people are not what they seem.
We don't get to know Barry Fairweather very well in the first few pages of the book. He dies right at the beginning of the story. (This is not a spoiler--his death creates the "casual vacancy" in the book.) It is only after the fact that you really get to know this man--through his friendships with the people who survive him.
There are not enough books which reveal real, 3 dimensional characters--people who come to life and remain like old friends in your head. Maybe for all your life. Rowling has incredible insight into teenage angst, marriage, addiction and love. The book is beautifully written. As you can see from the widely different reviews, it isn't for everyone. But I am among those who feel it is extraordinary.
wish the ending had more redeeming qualities
he was very good
no, because we know what happens to the most interesting characters.
I neither loved nor hated this book. I had not read Rowling before so I had no expectations. Was A decent story-slightly depressing. I found myself hoping agaist hope that some of the characters would overcome the odds. I do not feel that I wasted my credit.
This book its narration and above all its character development stands among one of the most gritty and painful examinations of life. Of lives really, of many intersecting and diverging lives the pettiness of rivalry, perplexing social situations of a youth and the dark turmoil of living and repeating poorly though out life decisions based on false hope and misinformation. Few authors these days try to expose life, J.K. Rowling has left her previous works with children, this story composes what a mature author and reader seeks and is afraid of. Yet it sucks you in with all the promise of one night stand but actually fulfills your appetite for self destruction and groundless hate and general lust for what you cannot have. Bravo, even as an American reader I was able to quickly relate to the scenes well crafted they blur the line of what is real and what is real enough it could be what has happened to you or friend you know.
The savage use of common everyday language and the depiction of life unvarnished and painful to relive as the helpless by-standing reader is what drew me into the story and kept me there.
Tom evoked the crass nature of these characters and the common kind of beautiful that is dangerous to listen to. Tom was able to balance the mechanics of the writing into the portrayal of humanized characters.
Common is Dangerous.
Well done J.K. well done!
I would definitely listen to it again because I like a good story well told -- and that's what this is.
There's a funeral scene near the end where one character recalls her lost friend in better times, pushing back against systemic b.s. with sass and humor and guts. That recollection will stay with me.
No, but I intend to. he's very good.
Krystal. Because she's smart and gutsy and full of heart.
I glanced through the bad reviews before downloading this book and almost skipped it because they were so vehement. I'm so glad I didn't! This has nothing to do with HP; my advice is to think of this writer as someone you've never heard of and take the work on face value. It's a book filled with people most of us can recognize, some of them honorable, some of them wretched, some of them just lost. The prose is fine and the dialogue rings true.
For those who say it's all just ugliness and vulgarity, I strongly disagree. I love this book.
I loved that there were many individual stories (for all the characters) but they were all connected. You could follow each story through the book and they each had their own ending.
One thing that stood out to me was what all the teenagers did to get back at their parents (whether they deserved it or not). It felt like a very real teenage action on all their parts.
It's my first book of his. I really enjoyed his narration.
Yes! It was a long book, but I managed to listen while jogging, cleaning, cooking and anywhere else I could sneak it in.
I would love to have had the Rihanna song played at the appropriate place in the story. I would have been willing to pay an extra amount comparable to the cost of a song download. This would have been a powerful addition to the story. I bought the song on my own and now I want to reread the book so I can mentally insert it in there. Hope there will be an audiobook edition in the future with this feature!
I bought this book in print as well as audio.
I have to say, I am a huge fan of audiobooks, but I just don't think this one was a good candidate for audio. It is much slower in audio and many other reviewers seem to have found it boring. I soon gave up on the audio and went back to reading my print version.
Overall, however, I loved the story and writing. I am not sure if it is the fault of the narrator or just simply one of those books that is much better in print. I think it was a little bit of both.
In terms of the story:
I really like this book a lot. The negative reviews made me sad, but I can understand that this is a very specific type of writing and if you don't like a slow pace, you probably won't really want to trudge through this book.
Liking Harry Potter does NOT mean you will like this book!
WARNING: not for children. While teens might want to read this, I doubt many would be very interested in the storyline of local politics in a small British town. A few of the main characters are teens themselves, however I am not sure that will be a big draw to get the teens to read the book.
To be fair, this is EXACTLY the type of book I like; a book that delves into the lives of the many characters and the mundane ways in which they occupy their time. I think Rowling does an amazing job describing the little hamlet of Pagford with all its pretensions and idiosyncrasies. Like Hogwarts, Pagford is a definite character in this novel. Unlike Hogwarts, Rowling doesn't have the benefit of 7 books in which to bring Pagford to life.