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The Casual Vacancy (2012)

by J. K. Rowling

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,980501741 (3.43)2 / 294
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the 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 facade 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?… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 460 (next | show all)
This is a witty, insightful and cleverly written observation on the dynamics inherent in a small town at a key point in local politics. The characters are three dimensional and the story is surprisingly gripping. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended if you want a bit of light entertainment. ( )
  dolly22 | Jul 9, 2020 |
If you want to be reminded of how horrible people and life in general can be, maybe this is the book for you?

A town council is at odds over taking ownership or ridding themselves of responsibility for a poor, drug-addled neighborhood.

While there are legitimately difficult issues touched on in this book, abuse, cutting, rape, etc., too much of the story is given over to adults whose issues seem incredibly vapid in comparison, squabbling over council seats, lusting after a boy-bander, lusting after employees (one of them underage), a guy who is too cowardly to just say he wants out of his relationship, and then there’s the way they treat their children… or anyone’s children... With the exception of maybe Kay, I found the adult characters in this book pretty much intolerable.

I don’t need characters to be likable in order to like something, I love the TV series Succession and every single character on there is despicable in some way, but the thing is, they’re also compelling and entertaining, which the adults in this book most definitely were not.

If it weren’t for teenagers Krystal and Sukhvinder, I don’t know that there would have been enough to compel me to see this one through to the end, fortunately, their parts of the story, while some of the bleakest moments, were far and away more emotionally engaging than anything else here. ( )
  SJGirl | Jun 10, 2020 |
I was given this book by my mother, who only managed to read part of it before giving up angrily, declaring it was too depressing. It probably is, but I really enjoyed it, nonetheless. At least until the end, it's incredibly realistic, and depicts the everyday tragedies that are constantly happening around us. For me, Krystal Weedon's relationship with her mother was really familiar, reminiscent of my mother at her worst (which, I suspect, is the real reason she couldn't finish the book). There's a ton of unhappy marriages, parents who regret having their kids, small-minded small-town small businessmen who are callous enough to think that cutting off drug addicts (and their entire families) from any kind of help or resources is a good idea, and so it goes. It's an exercise in showing the world as it really is, rather than as we might wish it would be.

I did have some issues with it. Mostly, I didn't like the ending very much. It seemed like the characterisation, which had been impeccable thus far, suddenly went a bit off. It's hard to believe that Krystal left her toddler brother to go wandering off near a river – she's certainly not shown as having perfect judgement, but better judgement than that, I'd think, no matter how desperate she is to get pregnant so she can escape her hellish living conditions – for that very brother's sake! And as well, much as I despised her, Shirley never seemed like the husband-murdering type, and the image of her prowling the streets of Pagford with an Epi-Pen clutched in her hand seemed a bit far-fetched. In neither case did these characters start acting hugely OOC, but they did a bit. It just made the conclusion seem a bit melodramatic and contrived, although I wouldn't say it was rushed, at least.

The other thing that bothered me was the pronunciation respelling in the Weedons' (and co's) dialogue... even words that they were pronouncing as per the standard, like "could" (which became "cud") and "was" ("wuz"). I'm generally opposed to writers doing this to begin with – it usually comes across as patronising, and while I don't think it does here due to Rowling's obvious sympathy for the Weedons, I do think it did when she used the same technique for Hagrid in Harry Potter. Furthermore, it's unnecessary. These characters' speech patterns differed from what might be considered "neutral" English – lots of use of "ain't", double negatives and the particle "right?" tacked on at the end of sentences, for a start. Just as an example, the sentence, "But I ain't done nothing wrong, right?" would convey the accent just as well as "Bu' I ain' done nuffin' wrong, righ'?" which is what this text probably would have preferred. Also, Rowling did this (changed the speech patterns but not the spelling) for Andrew Price's dialogue, who it seems spoke much the same way as the Weedons, and in places it got really hard to read. Mostly when Terri was speaking, which probably evokes how hard her slurred speech would have been to understand in person anyway, but still, overall the technique irritated me.

On a slightly related note, the book also has a few sections where multiple paragraph are enclosed within parentheses, and it seems like this was hard to edit because there were also a few spots where there was a closing parenthesis at the end of a paragraph with no pair that I could find. The writing feels a bit casual, but that doesn't bother me, just the apparent lack of editing.

Still, all in all, I loved this book. I wouldn't say it's slow, but a lot of the "action" is characters bickering with each other, so if you have no patience for that this book probably isn't for you. It's not usually my thing either, but I found the characters here so compelling that it worked. I really, really recommend it, and I find it kind of sad that its rating on Goodreads is so low just because of all the Harry Potter fans who read it and had their delicate sensibilities wounded by swearing and frank depictions of sex. I like Harry Potter, but this is a completely different kind of book, and yeah. It worked for me. ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
As the lockdown continues with no access to new library books, I turned to my TBR bookcase. Not being a Harry Potter fanatic, I was curious to see what kind of writer J.K. Rowling is outside of the wizarding worlds. This novel was a slow build to a very affecting ending. It's a tale of small town politics and the vast class divide within. Pagford is the wealthy village, Yarvil is the nearby small city, and the Fields are the council estates (low income housing) in between, and some Pagford residents want to gift/dump the Fields on Yarvil. The death of a beloved advocate for the people of the Fields, a native who rose above his origins, sets off a political war as the children of five pretty awful sets of parents take their revenge. It's too long, and there are many meandering paths, but the reader is richly rewarded for the journey.

Quotes: "He had the child's belief that the rest of the world exists as staging for their personal drama."

"How awful it was, the way the tiny ghosts of your living children haunted your heart; they could never know how their growing was a constant bereavement." ( )
  froxgirl | May 8, 2020 |
Both light and entertaining, and lightweight and exacerbating, unfortunately. A good premise, generally well and insightfully drawn characters, some very good sections (the dinner party 'scene', for example); but also some very flabby and simplistic writing. ( )
  DougLasT | Apr 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 460 (next | show all)
Set in the fictional village of Pagford, The Casual Vacancy at first seems to have all the trappings of the adorable-English-town novel—an updating of Jane Austen viewed through the loving lens of a Merchant Ivory production. But the book’s misanthropy is more indebted to Hardy or Somerset Maugham, both known for their deep distrust of humankind and their sense of the viciousness that can spring up among neighbors.
Rowling has spoken of the sense of risk in embarking on this novel. The Harry Potter series must have been a tough act to follow. What she wanted to do here, I guess, was to seize on the world we can all see without going through Platform 9¾. She has done that to stunning effect.
This is a novel of insight and skill, deftly drawn and, at the end, cleverly pulled together. It plays to her strengths as a storyteller. That will not stop the envious from carping.
added by eereed | editThe Economist (Sep 29, 2012)
It is not the sort of book that hordes of people would choose to read if its author had not also written a far more comforting series of stratospheric bestsellers. But perhaps the world will be better for them reading it. Rowling may not be an easy woman, but she uses her powers for good.
added by lampbane | editSalon, Laura Miller (Sep 28, 2012)
The Casual Vacancy is a sour novel, one that seems designed to leave Rowling’s biggest, most avid fans feeling as though she sort of hates them. For all its readability—I had no problem tearing through the whole thing today after buying it from a bewildered bookstore clerk at 7:30 in the morning—the book reveals that though she remains a careful observer of human foibles, Rowling the writer isn’t well-served by her enforced isolation.
added by DieFledermaus | editSlate, Dan Kois (Sep 27, 2012)

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rowling, J. K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Demarty, PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollander, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hurford Brown, DebraPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metaal, CarolienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mutsaers, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spilling, DuncanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner.
He thought that it was all over, finished, done with. Andrew had never yet had reason to observe the first tiny bubble of fermenting yeast, in which was contained an inevitable, alchemical transformation.
It was strange how your brain could know what your heart refused to accept.
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The early death of a small town councilman reveals deep-rooted conflicts in the seemingly idyllic community of Pagford, which rapidly deteriorates in the face of cultural disputes, generation clashes, and a volatile election.
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