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.
complex, unpredictable, honest
I like that it begins as one thing (the narrator's expressions of his love/hate relationship with this lover and her husband in the aftermath of the affair) and continues onto something else (a meditation on the nature of love, as well as one's relationships with others, including God). One of my favorite lines from the book: "How twisted we humans are, and yet they say a God made us...."
At times the narrator--Maurice Bendrix--may delude himself, but he is always notably self-revelatory with his audience.
This is the first audio book I've listened to for which Colin Firth was the reader/performer. Not surprisingly, he does an outstanding job.
This book took me some time. It was thought provoking and deserving of reflection.
I recommended it to my husband, who is not usually an audiophile; I think he appreciated it even more than I did.
The stories in this series are satisfying enough, but "Lil Tulip" reads them like a quarterly report--no changes of pace (and she reads much too fast) or intonation (no sensuality whatsoever). I was disappointed, because I had enjoyed Alison Tyler's Best Bondage Erotica. I think I liked Tyler's story choices a bit better than Bussel's, but it might just be that Tulip's narration was so dry the stories suffered for her reading.
I enjoyed Dylan Baker's reading, especially his renderings of Enid and Al, but--although some of the themes are the same--this story didn't "capture" me the way Freedom's did. That being said, Franzen's development of Al's increasing dementia and its effects on his wife and children is both emotionally moving and thought-provoking and, once again, Franzen captures the little tortures of married life and absurdities of the parent-child bond quite keenly.
DeLillo's take on the grieving process is fascinating, unique and, admittedly, sometimes confusing. As one reviewer noted, you can't listen to The Body Artist in traffic and fully appreciate its complexity. Laurie Anderson's narration is superbly nuanced. Hers is just the right voice, just the right articulation.
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