The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

Published July 11, 2013 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

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 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 parish 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?

What did I think?:

There have been a lot of mixed reviews about this book, and I started it slightly concerned as I am a big fan of the Potter series, but determined to keep an open mind. I’m so glad I did, as I actually really enjoyed it, and J.K. Rowling has firmly established herself as a talented writer of both childrens and adults fiction, in my opinion.  There are a LOT of characters to come to terms with, and I was worried that this could prove a problem, but I think I managed to get everyone sorted in my head. Warning, a lot of these characters if not all of them, are extensively unlikeable, but I thought that made them more interesting (and I’m a bit of a fan of a character with a foible or two anyway).

So, Barry Fairbrother, who has a prominent seat on the local parish council, unexpectedly dies of a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage in his early forties, the whole town of Pagford is in shock. This soon turns to a lot of squabbling between the various families over who should be elected in his place. This escalates further when someone posing as “The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother” posts an inflammatory message about one of the people standing for election, with various (true) accusations that may threaten their position. The “ghost” posts several more messages, in each one attacking a different member so the little town of Pagford fears no-one may be safe from the malicious comments.

The drama comes thick and fast in this novel with almost every character getting a bit of “air-time,” which I absolutely loved. The ones who stood out for me were the retch-worthy Howard (the description of the rash under his prominent belly was almost too much, even for me!), the nasty Samantha, who develops a very humorous crush on a member of her daughters favourite boy band, and the tormented but tough teenager Krystal. I don’t want to say too much about the ending but I thought it was poignant, heart-breaking, and fantastically compelling. One word of caution, for those wanting to read this expecting a bit of Harry Potter, this is NOTHING like it. Honestly. The language can be crude, the topics are controversial, and nope,there is not one little swish of a wand, or even a teensy-winsy hint of magic. But if you like your fiction intense, deep, and a little bit dark, this is the book for you. J.K. Rowling has definitely proved herself as a credible author in my opinion with this, her first (and definitely adult) novel.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



4 comments on “The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

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