THE CASUAL VACANCY is a first novel by J.K. Rowling after finishing the world famous series Harry Potter. It's also her first adult novel.
The Casual Vacancy came out last year and I was tempted even then to buy and read it. But it was way too expensive and it only came out in hardback. So I waited patiently and recently discovered that the paperback has come out with even prettier cover than the hardback. And Asda (God Bless that supermarket and their amazing idea of 3for £10 on books) offered it within their summer promo offer. Purchased as a part of my August Book Haul I decided to read it.
I must say I have been very worried. J. K. Rowling created Harry Potter world which came out and took over the world. Seven amazing books adored and loved by kids and adults. Can she do it again? We all know that the answer is NO. The success of Harry Potter cannot be repeated.
But after this book came out, it got amazing reviews by many book critics writing for various publications:
"I had come under the spell of a great novel.. a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very well." TIME MAGAZINE
"This is a wonderful novel. J. K. Rowling's skills as a storyteller are on a par with R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle and P.D. James. Here, they are combined with her ability to create memorable and moving characters to produce a state-of-England novel driven by tenderness and fury." THE OBSERVER
And these are only few. It even got picked as Novel of the year 2012 by Goodreads.com. So I was expecting great things. I was expecting adventure. Great captivating story I wouldn't be able to put down..
But I wasn't that impressed.. Well, not from the start. It took me a while to get into the book. About 150 pages. The prequel was good. An unexpected dead of Barry Fairbrother from his point of view. Straight to the point. I am always excited when the book start with dramatic prequel. It usually makes me want to read on. But this wasn't the case. I read on. But only got confused. There are too many narrators. And you get mixed up. It takes you a while to figure out who is who. They are over 13 narrators in this book! Confused! I certainly was.
The main plot is a bit boring too. In the idyllic small town of Pagford, a councillor dies and leaves a 'casual vacancy'- and empty seat on the Parish Council. In the election for his successor that follows, it is clear that behind the pretty surface this is a town at war. They bitching and gossiping about each other. They lie to each other. And pretend how great they are. With a nasty smile on the face.
As I said boring. I thought that at some parts I am going to fall asleep. But that changed in the last third of the book when it finally got interesting and I started to enjoy the story. Finally something was happening. Thank God! And J.K. Rowling finished with a great unexpected ending which blew my mind and made me sad.
Although I wasn't keen about the plot and found it boring I have to say: "Hands off to the great study of characters in this book." They were so real. Sometimes I felt I can find everyone of them in 5 miles radius of people I know. And the Fields reminded me a little bit of Armley (for those not from Leeds - a rough area in Leeds.). I think my favourite character was Sukhvinder. Her story touched me the most. A bullied teenage girl who's parents always find only the bad things about her so she starts to harm herself. And they are all so blind and don't see how much they're hurting her. It's so sad. And then there is Robbie (Krystal's little three-year-old brother..). What a sad ending! But Rowling wrote every single character with such a great realness in them.
I also enjoyed the fact that at the end all the little stories of each character tied together.
After finishing this book I have thought long and hard if I liked this book. And I did. After a rocky shaky, a little bit boring, start it became a wonderfully written novel with some amazing insights to the characters with a great sad ending. Not a book I would normally read as there is no love story and I do love my love stories, but a great adult novel which everyone can enjoy.
At the end, England is full of little towns like Pagford.