Review: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy marks J.K. Rowling’s first foray into writing exclusively for adults. Centring around the small West Country village of Pagford and the death of Barry Fairbrother, a local Parish councillor, the books also has themes of drug addiction, teenage angst and rebellion, self harm, childcare, and grief.

It is an engrossing read and one that’s easy enough to get through. None of the characters particularly come across as fundamentally likeable, but in some ways this was the aim – the characters are very human. They are human to a fault.

Rowling’s style has not noticeably developed since the Harry Potter books, however, and there are numerous points of the book where the writing descends into straightforward description of what the character is doing, moment by lingering moment. For example:

‘Mary switched off the mirror light and closed the passenger side door. Barry pressed the auto-lock on the key-ring in his hand; his wife’s heels clacked on the tarmac, the car’s locking system beeped, and Barry wondered whether his nausea might abate once he had eaten.’
There are also a number of other things that were present in the Potter series – little things like ‘said Barry’, rather than ‘Barry said’ and strange turns of phrase:

‘…the agony was excruciating beyond endurance, except that endure it he must, for oblivion was still a minute away.’
These surface less and less towards the end of the book, or perhaps they become less noticeable. The story itself is told possibly from too many points of view, which shift mid-scene in some cases.

On the whole, though, it’s an enjoyable read. It’s not the best piece of literature out there, but it’s not the worst by a long chalk. It was enjoyable and in places compelling, though there wasn’t enough opportunity, in my opinion, for the reader to really empathise with the characters

2 Responses to “Review: The Casual Vacancy”
  1. pjsassifras says:

    I enjoyed it, but you’re right, none of the characters are particulary likeable. Small town drama & politics.

    • Nick says:

      I enjoyed it, but it’s not that good as a work of fiction. It left little impact.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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