When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early 40s, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.... Pagford is not what it at first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town's council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?
Blackly comic, thought-provoking, and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults.
©2012 J.K. Rowling (P)2012 Hachette Audio
I highly recommend this book. It can be difficult at times, as the characters are somewhat raw, and sometimes thoroughly unlikable. However, the story is compelling and drags you along even if you want to give up on the lives and petty concerns of the inhabitants of this small town. By the time I reached the end, I was sorry it was over, and sorry that I would not be traveling farther with the inhabitants, about whom now I want to know more. It was beautifully read.
Hoosier transplanted in Virginia Beach who is a fan of good books and travel.
JK Rowling is an excellent writer. We know this already from her thousands of pages of Harry Potter stories. Her ability to describe minute details eloquently rivals few other contemporaries. We loved this when she described a made up magic world in Harry Potter. When she describes this sordid realistic world that we may or may not recognize, and would prefer to avoid, it may make the reader uncomfortable. This story is chocked full of characters, which is typical of British books but sometimes tries the patience of American readers (just get on with the story!) However, once the story unfolds and marches toward the inevitable ending, it becomes very "readable"and everything ties together very neatly. It is helpful to know that the working title of this novel was, "Responsibility". Are we our brothers' keepers after all?
The ending leaves us wondering, "Was this inevitable?" Could any of these characters have behaved any differently to prevent it, or was this fate set in stone? Did the dominoes have to fall this way? Is this the world that was left behind because of the death of Barry Fairbrother?
The narrator's many voices and accents for each character added so much to the experience, especially for an American reader.
There were so many memorable characters, it is difficult to choose. Crystal was memorable for her tough character and impossible situation, her mother Terri was interesting for her pathetic despicability, and even though we did not know Barry, we felt like we did because of all the "Barry anecdotes".
This is a far cry from Harry Potter, there is a great deal of vulgarity, but the author is trying to depict a world that most of us prefer to turn our heads and not deal with. She seems to be saying that whether we deal with it or not, it is still our responsibility, and our lack of action has consequences, just like every effort pays off in some small way.
One of my favorites
Couldn't pick just one
The English interpretation and pronunciation adds to my understanding
So hard to choose because all of the characters were so well written. I truly was drawn into their lives
Up to the top. Kept me engaged throughout the telling. Great character development.
The demise of Crystal. Can't say too much without giving it away.
Crystal's Mum, Terry.
Crystal. Most complex and speaks to the rebel in me. Reminds me a bit of my confusing high school years.
Glad I didn't listen to the naysayers regarding the fork in the road of JKR. She is a storyteller first, last and always. LISTENING to the characters and the setting was more helpful than reading this story.
The character development. The story. The reader.
Umbrella. Crystal Weadon & Fats in the cemetary. Kay's first visit to the Weadon house.
Crystal. Samantha. Andrew. Kay.
Samantha. I am sure we would have plenty to drink.
This is a great character book, that allows you to hear the story from all perspectives. The story moves along at a good pace, so that you never get bored. I would recommend this book to any listener, whether or not you like the Harry Potter series, as this book goes in a totally different direction than Rowling's other works.
I had low expectations for this book for a number of reasons. As a fan of JKR's Potter books, I knew that anything not-Potter would inevitably feel like something of a letdown. For example, any time poor Patricia Cornwell writes any non-Scarpetta book, she gets roasted by her Scarpetta fans. Also, the reviews for this book were generally poor. Although my taste differs significantly from that of professional book snobs, um, *reviewers*, I find the aggregate user reviews on Goodreads and Audible to be generally in the ballpark. Finally, the reviews I read generally indicated that this book was dark and grim, with a downer of an ending. Had I not enjoyed the Potter world JKR built so much, I probably wouldn't have read this book at all.
Curiously, I had just been listening to Peyton Place on audio, and couldn't help but mentally compare the two. They are similar in theme - both are about the sordid realities hiding behind a small town's pretty facade, including the sort of small-town class politics and power struggles where the successful and unsympathetic fight with the successful and sympathetic over the town's civic responsibility to their "undeserving poor", as Alfred P Doolittle would say. I had the same difficulties at the start of the story, too. So many characters are introduced so rapidly that I simply couldn’t keep track of them all. This is a uniquely audio problem, because in a paper format, I’d be able to flip back and forth to remind myself what each character had been up to previously, until all the dots start connecting and the individual storylines come together.
I suppose the comparison to the Potter books is inevitable, but JKR is successful in repeating and improving on one of the things I loved about those books. The huge cast of characters is wonderfully drawn. Each character is unique, and each character is flawed in some way, and stays true to itself throughout the story arc. What she has improved upon in this adult book is that there is no clear division between the “good” characters and the “bad” characters. Even her most unlikeable characters have some positive qualities (or at least sympathetic ones, given their eventually revealed histories and situations), and we understand how those positive and negative qualities drive their actions. The characters come from all walks of life and all situations, from the congenitally wealthy to middle class to children of heroin addicts. Had the children’s books been written this way, I wouldn’t have wondered where the inhabitants of Knockturn Alley went to school, because they obviously weren’t at Hogwarts.
Many reviewers complained that the ending was too grim, but I have to disagree. There is tragedy at the end, but many characters have learned and grown from their experiences to varying degrees, and there is genuine hope for some at the end.
This is very much a character-driven story, to the degree that there seems to be very little plot at all. Halfway through the book, though I was enjoying the characters, I wondered if there was a point to the story. At the end, I can see the point. But anyone who prefers a story with some action driving toward a particular end will not be happy with this story. It’s really just about people and how they behave and think and interact with one another. It’s about how attitudes and prejudices create the kind of society we live in.
Tom Hollander did a fantastic job. Although he doesn’t attempt to create a unique voice for each character – that would have been nearly impossible with the number of characters – he read with feeling and I was easily able to distinguish one character’s speech from another. I enjoyed this very much, and may even possibly listen to it again sometime.
Yes, would recommend for sure. The narrator is very talented, and really draws you in. The story is very adult. No kid themes here, which I think people may not expect from JK Rowling.
The character development was superb.
His accents were amazing. He switched between all the various British accents, male & female with ease. He really drew me into the story.
Sukvindah's issue was very troubling, as well as the end for Krystle.
It's not action packed like Hogwarts, but this is definitely for an adult reader who enjoys character development and an unfolding story. Well done JK!
Characters are well defined. They seemed real. I could visualize this place very easily.
Definitely an indictment of the social environment.
No one in particular.
No! It is too rough a story to listen to for any length of time.
Audible is always great. Rowling is great. Rowling needs a middle ground story now.
The different accents of the characters made it very interesting to listen to it in audio.
All charters were interesting and one doesn't stand out for me.
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