Product Added : October 29th, 2012
Category : Books
"This Best Selling The Casual Vacancy Tends to SELL OUT VERY FAST! If this is a MUST HAVE product, be sure to Order Now to avoid disappointment!"
When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, 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 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?
Photo credit: © Wall to Wall Media Ltd. Photographer: Andrew Montgomery.
Throwing in my two cents as one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t read the HP series. (My kids were the perfect age as the books came out: young enough to love them, old enough to read for themselves.) I pre-ordered THE CASUAL VACANCY and inhaled it the minute it hit my Kindle mainly (I will admit) because it’s a remarkable moment of publishing history, but I was quickly drawn into the story. The characters are people I already know, because they are the people we all already know. In the end, I liked this book on its own merits. And I liked it a lot.
Rowling is a terrifically strong writer; you can’t fault her on craft, and I like that she doesn’t feel the need to do any acrobatics or post a billboard – THIS WAY TO THE BRILLIANT WRITER – on every page, as is the irritating case in a lot of literary fiction. If you’re able to set aside the JK ROWLING of it all, you’ll love or hate this book on the strength of what it says about people. Folks. Relationships that are the opposite of magic. Politics that are petty. The youthful compulsion to crusade – at any age – and the crusty compulsion to squash the crusading of others.
Early on, it’s noted that Samantha “enjoyed [Miles'] pomposity with precisely the same spirit as she liked, on formal occasions, to wear a hat,” and Rowling is able to enjoy the faults of these characters the same way. These are the characters Franzen would write if he had more tenderness and less literary dyspepsia. Observations about resonant, everyday dynamics – conversational currency, backhanded charity, the lie of self-sacrifice – are made with more wry than sly and not a whiff of self-righteousness.
This is a quiet book; some will say cozy, but I think there’s enough edge to prevent that. I loved the dry Britcom humor. A thousand little understated zingers make THE CASUAL VACANCY a pleasure to read in the way that the Mapp and Lucia books are a pleasure. As life unravels for the people of Pagford, we have a goldfish bowl view, but that understated tone keeps things from going totally soapy.
A book that kept coming back to me as I read was Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. I can’t think of another instance where an author from whom so much was expected took on the profoundly risky task of reminding us that there is nothing more human than the mundane.
Having read some of the more negative views, I have to say this: Would you have ranked “1984″, “The Bluest Eye”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, or “Great Expectations” so badly? Guess what, some of the best stories aren’t fun-filled light reading! Some of the best works are disturbing, even sad. So, if your view of literature is that a book can only be worthwhile if you can breeze through it having a fun adventure, then don’t bother with this book. This is something else entirely.
That said, “The Casual Vacancy” is a disturbing character study. It is written in third-person omniscient point of view. It does require some effort to handle a story with some 18 or so viewpoint characters, so this book will be at too high a reading level for some. I normally don’t like the omniscient POV, but this story had to be told that way and Rowling handles it with expertise.
So, what is this book about? It is about pain and cruelty and why people become cruel. There are no traditional protagonists or antagonists, just people going through life. Rowling explores the various ways that people become cruel, angry, or jaded with each main character showing a different form of cruelty and a different reason for it. And, this book is about the people that get hurt by other people’s pain and anger.
This isn’t an easy book to read, probably the reason so many have reviewed it negatively. But, this is a brilliantly written book, just not for everyone.
I highly recommend this book to those who want to read something thought-provoking and actually about the real world. But, if you want some light reading that you don’t have to think about, then stay away from “The Casual Vacancy”.
To those who reviewed it negatively because it wasn’t like Harry Potter, I can only ask whether they were paying attention. Rowling explored many of these themes, hidden behind the window dressing of fantasy, in those books. That is why Harry Potter was not just another of the countless stories about magical children. She continues this exploration in “The Casual Vacancy”, but without the magic and without the restrictions of children’s literature.
Edited to add: I realize that Rowling has described this as a dark comedy. I don’t know why she has said that. Perhaps she had intended this to be a comedy, and there are some satirical scenes, but it grew into something else as she developed and revised it. Whatever the case, I saw very little that was humorous in this book. I did greatly appreciate the book, but I don’t know why she would claim it was a comedy, dark or otherwise.
I think plot details have been reviewed pretty well by this time, so I’d like to comment on the characters.
What I have always loved about Rowling’s writing is her ability to create characters that seem real. She knows her characters,she knows what to do with them, and she isn’t afraid to let bad things happen to them. In this novel, she has dozens of characters to work with, and oftentimes background information has to be supplied and the actual plot suspended so that the reader can keep up with everyone. I personally don’t mind because I find these characters absolutely fascinating, but the lack of action isn’t going to appeal to everyone.
With many books it is very clear who the reader should be “rooting” for, since one character seems to stand above the rest morally or in talent. If you are expecting the same formula in this book you will be disappointed, because each character is deeply flawed, each with his or her own ugliness. My point is that there is no hero, unless you count the deceased Barry Fairbrother, and I even wonder about him. Again, I find this refreshing. It makes me irrationally annoyed to see so many bestsellers about a klutzy, yet otherwise completely endearing protagonist attracting all men within a ten mile radius. You will not find that here. Thank God.
The counterpoint to this is that each character is also endearing or relatable in his or her own way. With each shifting viewpoint (and there are many), new insights are revealed that make it easier to understand each character. It is a style that makes it hard to put the book down, since she never gives you all you want to know at once.
Other points: I’m a fast reader, and ordinarily I’d have knocked this out in a night, but I decided to stretch it out over a couple of days. I really think this helps for understanding the characters and their connections better — if you don’t get those, you won’t understand the plot.
Also, many people are commenting on the use of strong language, sexuality, and rape. Personally, I think if you are going to write about problems in a small town and the people in it, these things almost beg to be addressed. That Rowling did not avoid them speaks to her strength as a character writer; it doesn’t mean, for example, that she’s using four letter words just because she can’t think of a better one.
I loved this book – yes it took a while to get going – with a huge cast of characters, each painstakingly introduced. However, the lengthy beginning certainly paid off as you become immersed in the daily, tortured struggles of people trying to find a sense of importance, ‘authenticity’ and meaning in the small community of Pagford.
These characters – seemingly so small and petty, have been made magnificent by the lavish care given to their stories. The pettiness, prejudice and narrow mindedness rings true, even if you have not actually met ‘these sort of people’ – all of us suspect that parts of them live inside all of us.
This wonderful novel is about as far from Harry Potter as you can get – but it doesn’t seem as though JK Rowling set out to prove that she could write a profane, gritty urban satire/tragedy. No – this novel is so perfectly formed and well-written – I am left gasping in awe of her talent as a writer on many levels.
If you are reading it for the ‘Harry Potter’ experience – you will be sadly disappointed. For me – it was akin to discovering a fresh new voice.
I am an avid reader, however I never make reviews of the books I read on amazon, this is the first one I am posting. I felt that I needed to do something to try and fight back against all these unwarranted 1 star reviews (which I have read through, and find their points appalling).
The first thing is that even when people are saying that they are not comparing this novel to Harry Potter, they clearly are. Harry Potter is a fantasy series that is heavily plot driven and was originally targeted at children. The Casual Vacancy is a book based on several months in one setting focusing on the lives of a group of people. So my first piece of advice is read the blurb. J. K. Rowling clearly defined what this book was about from the very beginning; so if you are not someone who will enjoy this genre of novel, even if you do love Rowling, don’t read it. It is not comparable in anyway to Harry Potter, so why are people who obviously do not like books dealing with current issues and want to read about some hero overcoming evil bothering to read it at all.
Secondly I have read a lot of people complaining about the characters because they are not likeable. I, however, found them very entertaining and am sad to have parted with them. They are not likeable in the sense that I approve of their actions and I think they are good people, but they are extremely vivid characters that you feel like you know and can envisage perfectly. The characters are all quite self-centred and fail to think about anything other than their own betterment. Why is everyone whining about this? Am I the only person who has had any experience with people in the real world? Many, many people are like this. Their world revolves around “the self”, they are wrapped up in a tight little bubble of “me, me, me” and do not see the ways in which they could improve the lives of others. So even if they are unlikeable, their concerns and attitudes (after learning of their personal life circumstances) are actually quite realistic.
It is through these characters and their self-centredness that Rowling explores many current issues that are very contentious and I feel like she does this very well and very realistically. Not every protagonist is made of sunshine and rainbows, and when Rowling released this book she made it clear that it was not about a hero on a mission. This book is about everyday people dealing with everyday issues and their lives in a small town. Even if the characters are not likeable they all have something that can be related too. She deals with issues like abuse, neglect, health issues, marriage and relationships, first loves, suicide, people on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum and many others. If such topics are not ones that interest you then this book is not for you. I feel that too many people have picked this up simply because she is J. K. Rowling; so make sure that you are interested in the matters she is dealing with here before reading it. Perhaps a pen name would have invited better feedback because then people would have read this book because of the story, rather than the author.
Despite the very different type of tale this is to Harry Potter it still carries Rowling’s wonderful way with words. She describes things vividly and callously and she makes the town and the people come to life. After reading this book I feel like I know Pagford so well that I should stop by there next time I am in England, even though it is a fictional town. This is how well she describes it. She uses her usual humour to make boring situations interesting and descriptions of plain things exciting.
I feel that J. K. Rowling should be given the full credit she deserves for writing this book. It is an individual entity and deserves to be judged as such. Readers need to stop comparing this to Harry Potter or J. K. Rowling and just take it for what it is. So please, rather than reading it because of the author and then giving poor feedback because it wasn’t for you, acknowledge what this book is actually about before you pick it up.
Personally, I found it to be a very interesting read and it has provided me with many things to think about regarding today’s society in Western countries.
It seems this book is one that people love, or they hate. The one star reviews for price isn’t fair to the book or its author, nor are the reviews from people who didn’t read it, or just a read bit of it.
For everyone who insists this book has to have something in common with the Harry Potter books. The Casual Vacancy is what would have happened to Harry had there not been magic and Hogwarts to save him.
The Dursleys were self satisfied, self important, stingy, petty, little people who were overly concerned with appearances, and what the neighbors would say. In the Sorcerer’s Stone; Petunia Dursley was described as a gossipy window watcher. Vernon was cruel to Harry. Remember how many times he locked Harry in his cupboard, and later in his bedroom without food? The memories Harry had…of being chased up a tree by Aunt Marge’s dogs, and not let down until after midnight. The clothing the Dursleys made Harry wear; all of Dudley’s castoffs that clearly did not fit, and Harry’s glasses that were mended with tape. His body clearly showed the lack of food. You would think that any concerned neighbor would have turned the Dursleys into social services, but in ten years no one at his school, or any of his neighbors took the time or effort to look into Harry’s situation. Clearly Harry was an abused and neglected child. The people at school, and the neighbors, were too wrapped up in their own petty concerns to take pity on a neglected orphaned boy. JK Rowling described a desperate living situation for Harry, and I took it as a scathing commentary on social injustices way back then. I think Ms Rowling has wanted to expose the underbelly of social injustice even before she wrote Harry Potter, but you can clearly see the seeds of The Casual Vacancy had been planted years ago!
The Casual Vacancy is a look at people in situations where they can’t take care of themselves. Yes, addiction is awful, and ugly. What is does to the innocent children is uglier. The kids have no choice as to who they are born to. Since they have no functioning parent they are left with little choice. They do what they must do to survive, or they don’t survive at all. Without help from people with better life circumstances the cycle of abuse and neglect will only perpetuate itself. The people with better circumstances seem to see these helpless little victims as a burden, or worse; somehow they deserve their lot in life. Without help how can they possibly get out?
The Casual Vacancy is a tough book to read, but I think an important one. It is a book that shines a light on how cruelly we human beings can be toward one another. How we can take pleasure tormenting each other, how many of us become so wrapped up in our own little dramas that we become blind to other’s suffering, or choose to look away; how we prey upon those weaker than ourselves, and how when we do nothing the consequences can be devastating. I think that is the point of the book. We have to stop looking away.
Something to think about; If Harry were a real boy, in the real world, living in the situation described, and showing the anger he did toward the Dursleys; how long would it be before sweet little 11 year old Harry became a snarling, out of control, rebellious teenager? Given the complete lack of love from the Dursleys what might Harry do to them or to himself? If no one intervened on Harry’s behalf there would be no telling.