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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy (original 2012; edition 2012)

by J.K. Rowling

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3,9433311,301 (3.44)2 / 217
Title:The Casual Vacancy
Authors:J.K. Rowling
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Your library, Started, Not Finished

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The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (2012)


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English (302)  Dutch (6)  French (5)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  Finnish (3)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (330)
Showing 1-5 of 302 (next | show all)
Well written book but not a genre I would normally read. I confess if it hadn't been a J.K. Rowling book I would have stopped reading it. It's a depressing topic about a depressing town full of depressing petty people. Normally I escape into a book. This one took me a long time to get through because I had to keep escaping out of it. The tear in my eye at the end of the story is what caused me to give it this rating. Something touched me so I can't be all negative about the book. ( )
  jkgrage | Nov 24, 2014 |
Barry Fairweather is a significant force on Pagford's council, until he suddenly dies of a stroke. As this news spreads we're introduced to a host of other characters: fellow council, their families and acquaintances, business partners and professionals. Like any small town where everybody knows everyone, the interrelationships are a complex tangle but Rowling does a fantastic job of sorting this all out for us without making it overwhelming. To further spare the reader, the political background is a bit later in coming but then is all spelled out, and after that it's full steam ahead as applicants step forward in their desire to claim Barry's vacated chair. It's hardly just a political story, however; this is mere background to give it some structure. Really it's a snapshot that captures every element of life in a typical small town.

If Harry Potter represents the bright centre of escapism, this is the novel furthest from it. Everything bad you can imagine happening behind closed doors in your neighbourhood is present. It can be a little distressing for hitting so close to home and so accurately, but at the same time it's made engaging because the characters win readers' sympathy (often hilariously) through the act of despising one another. Few are blind to one another's faults, and even fewer pause to consider their own. Everyone else is to blame, and Rowling's original working title "Responsibility" - or rather, the lack thereof - speaks loudly as the novel's theme.

I wouldn't have picked it up without her name on the cover, if I'm being honest, but if you admired Rowling's style from her earlier work and not just the fantasy world she created then you'll enjoy it again here in spades. The pages flew past. ( )
  Cecrow | Nov 24, 2014 |
I got this from the library and I am glad I did. I didn't finish it, the characters didn't draw me in and when I stopped I found I did not care. ( )
  mojo09226 | Nov 21, 2014 |
Very fine novel of manners. Having conquered YA, fantasy, detective and this, I think she is a genius. ( )
  linenandprint | Nov 16, 2014 |
The little town of Pagford seems like a quintessential English village, but when parish council member Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly the town’s peace is shattered. Rival political factions begin to campaign to fill Barry’s open seat with a candidate of their choice, while the children of the council members begin spreading rumors about their parents to further their own agendas. Meanwhile, a social worker named Kay tries to convince the council to save Bellchapel, a drug clinic that is the last hope for many desperate cases, like that of Krystal Weedon, a desperately poor girl struggling to raise her three-year-old brother as her mother fails to break her heroin addiction.

This is a darkly funny novel, pointing out the many absurdities of small town life. But it’s also a meaty story that deals with a lot of controversial themes: teen sex, drug addiction, rape, self-harm, domestic and child abuse, suicide, and racism. This microcosm of social issues reveals the hundreds of petty ways that people poke at each other’s miseries, lashing out and striking back. It highlights the almost casual way that a life can be ruined and the ease of which responsibility is discarded. It takes the concept of “It takes a village to raise a child” and flips it on its head, illustrating exactly how a village can ruin a child, too.

It’s quite shocking from the author of Harry Potter. There’s an earthiness to the writing that is simply worlds away from Hogwarts, but equally delightful. Take this descriptive passage, for example:
He was an extravagantly obese man of sixty-four. A great apron of stomach fell so far down in front of his thighs that most people thought instantly of his penis when they first clapped eyes on him, wondering when he had last seen it, how he washed it, how he managed to perform any of the acts for which a penis is designed.
It’s perfect. I can imagine exactly the sort of man’s body she means, but these sentences are not at all something I would expect from J. K. Rowling.

It’s not always an enjoyable story, per se. A lot of really bad stuff happens, after all. The most tragic case is that of Krystal Weedon, a poor girl who lacks the skills to better herself and can’t gain the sympathy of others because “everyone knows” that Weedons are trouble. As her life spirals increasingly out of control, you want her to find a way to break the cycle of poverty – but she’s often so abrasive, impulsive and cruel that it’s a struggle to remain sympathetic. Another girl, Sukhvinder, faces so much pressure from her family and classmates that she only finds relief in cutting herself. Another boy struggles to protect his mother, younger brother and himself from his father’s abusive rages. You want an adult to step in and help these poor kids, but of course it’s all happening behind closed doors and the rest of the town has no idea.

I’m rambling a bit, sorry. Let me get back on track. Is it a good book? Yes. It is a great study of a small community and the prejudices and passions of the individuals living in it. Is it anything like Harry Potter? No, not really. Rowling took her writing in a totally different direction for this book, and it is fun to see just how different it can be from her famous series. ( )
  makaiju | Nov 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 302 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rowling, J. K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Demarty, PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metaal, CarolienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mutsaers, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary 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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
When Barry Fairbrother 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?
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When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock and the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.

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Average: (3.44)
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