A book review:
‘The Casual Vacancy’
By J.K. Rowling
Published in 2012 by Little Brown, Great Britain.
Plot summary: A member on the Parish Council dies in a small town named Pagford, and everyone squabbles for his seat leading to a series of events that cause irreparable damage.
I really tried to stay positive whilst reading this book. That is the only reason why I finished it after gaps which lasted months. It was really difficult to pick it up again. This is for a number of reasons.
J.K. Rowling has written one of the most moving children’s series, ever. I was a book snob once and I decided that reading Harry Potter was not my thing… until my friend lent me the first book in secondary school. I was hooked to such an extent that I asked my parents to buy me the entire series. (This was after the last book had already come out, maybe in 2010. I don’t remember exactly, but at that point J.K Rowling had finished the entire series.)
I didn’t think that was fair, though. To compare ‘The Casual Vacancy’ to ‘Harry Potter’, because they are different genres… and they are written for a different audience. It is clear to me now, that I am not a member of that audience. (The one that enjoys ‘The Casual Vacancy’ ) I will try not spend this time comparing J.K. Rowling’s work then. That’s not what this is. That is not the mindset that I was attempting to read this book with. It was excruciating not to fall into that trap though. I will try my best to review the book then as an individual piece separate from what she has written before.
Here are the book’s shortcomings. Rowling wrote the book from the perspective of the key characters in the town – in the entire town. It is exceptionally difficult to sympathise with the characters just because they seem hollow. There is no key perspective that is more prominent than the other; most of the characters were given equal ‘time’ in the spotlight. This is a good thing because you know what is happening from different sides of the story, but it’s a bad thing because eventually you end up not caring about the people in the story. Rowling also doesn’t make the shift between perspectives very clear. In some cases, you could be reading a paragraph from one point of view, and then the following paragraph could be written from a different point of view.
Rowling also has managed to write from the spiteful, bad side of the characters. For some reason I couldn’t see any good or unselfishness in their behaviour. After all, you know what the impact of each character’s actions is on the others. They all have their own agenda, and they want to achieve it without a second thought for the consequences. The characters also don’t change, they don’t develop. At the beginning the reader jumps straight into the story, the characters are introduced, and for some reason, continue in a state of limbo until the very end.
The story is set in one of the most boring and uninteresting settings I’ve ever read. Pagford is a small town in the English countryside that doesn’t boast anything spectacular other than some houses, a square with a statue, and a river.
My final verdict for this book isn’t a very happy one. The changes in perspective, the vast amount of characters without any real development, the mundane setting and stretched plot make the book… boring. Even when the pace picks up towards the end, there is no excitement. Things just happen in this book. One after another.
I wouldn’t reread this book again, and I wouldn’t recommend it either. There really isn’t anything good about it. I’m not disheartened though. I’m sure that J.K. Rowling will write more books, and I’m sure that they will be great. As an artist I understand that not everything that you will make will be a masterpiece. Some things just won’t work for you. This book was one of those cases.