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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
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The Casual Vacancy (original 2012; edition 2012)

by J.K. Rowling

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,9303281,310 (3.44)2 / 218
Member:crgalvin
Title:The Casual Vacancy
Authors:J.K. Rowling
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction
Rating:***
Tags:Small town stories, Contemporary fiction, Family relationships, Adolecent behaviour

Work details

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

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English (299)  Dutch (6)  French (5)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  Finnish (3)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (327)
Showing 1-5 of 299 (next | show all)
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 |
If you watched Broadchurch, or the American version, Gracepoint, you probably already know the flavor of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. A small English town and its even smaller suburb across the hill form the backcloth to the tale. A wealth of characters, rich and poor, young and old, all hide their sins and secrets, living seemingly normal lives with normal afflictions covering normal needs. But one man has died, leaving a “casual vacancy” on the council. The council’s word just might decide the future of a teenage girl and her run-down neighborhood. But it all depends on who can win the most votes, sway the most opinions, or beat the system most efficiently.

J. K. Rowling paints convincing characters interacting with wholly authentic dialog. The flavor of England, slightly gone-off, over the hill, wounded, or even scared, fills every page. Every picture reveals its hidden side, and every argument remains strong in its own dark twisted way. Readers follow the paths of runaway, stay-at-home and stranger, picking favorites perhaps, struggling to approve when the next betrayal looms. But these characters aren’t there to please—their aim is just to survive. And this novel brings their world and their suffering to life.

Thought-provoking, sad, neither casual nor vacant, this novel is a heavy tale of real people, torn and darkened by the past, then lit, in the end, by just that hint of silver lined clouds when the rainstorm’s passed.

Disclosure: I might not have picked it up if it weren’t written by J. K. Rowling, but I found it cheap in a store and I’m glad I bought it. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Nov 13, 2014 |
Wow is all I can say. If you haven't read it, you really should. Don't go in thinking its Harry Potter or you'll be disappointed. JKR outdid herself with this one. Definitely going in my reread pile. ( )
  rabidmunkee | Nov 7, 2014 |
Yes it's not Harry Potter. I'd say it's like a very long soap opera but humorous and tragic. An excellent read! ( )
  lesindy | Nov 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 299 (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.
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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