Book Review: The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

The one thing I wanted to do before reading this book was to delete Harry Potter from my mind (which is in fact very difficult). I didn’t want to judge The Casual Vacancy against Harry Potter, the books are not of the same genre, directed at the same audience or similar in any way, and comparing one against the other would be unfair to the stories themselves.

The Casual Vacancy tells of the life of the inhabitants of a small village named Pagford. The centre point which connects all the characters is the parish council election for the vacated seat left by Barry Fairbrother, whose death starts the book. The story  is essential an ‘us’ against ‘them’ novel however there are several different sides to this, and the reader gets a snippet into each character’s life and their stance on the election.

The characters intertwined plot lines are worthy of a Quentin Tarantino film, and although it takes some time to get going, the story and characters are worth persevering for. The number of different characters means that none of them really have any significant character development, but they remain strong in their identity none the less. The teenagers of the village portray the many different sides of society and provide the elements of sanity that their politically driven parents lack. The Mollisons are the characters that are so repulsive in their small town ‘the world revolves around us’ ways, yet that is the brilliance of Rowling’s ability.

The book for me was harder to read than some other adult fiction I have read. I was unable to sit and just read cover to cover, I had to give the sections I had read time to become clearer in my mind. This is one of the reasons why this review has taken so long, as I couldn’t simply couldn’t read through it as quickly as other books. Although I should point out that once I got to the halfway point of the book, I found it easier to read and my mind had become more accustomed to the writing and the characters.

But overall I found The Casual Vacancy to be a very interesting read.  I enjoyed being part of the many characters’ lives, and although there was less character development than I’m used to, I feel the writing was perfect and delivered the story and its message clearly. I feel that this book is a must read purely because it shows a different side to J.K. Rowling. The characters are the strongest element in the book, and I praise Jo Rowling for having such a talent that allows her to portray real life relationships on a page.


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