The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling, did not get very good reviews from the critics or from readers. Most of the people who saw me reading it had comments like, “I was glad I got that one from the library so I could give it back.” I’ll admit, I picked up this book simply because J.K. Rowling is the author, but I really was quite happy with it. I think the disappointment many people had in this book came from unrealistic expectations, so I’ve made two shorts lists outlining whether or not The Casual Vacancy is for you.
DO NOT read The Casual Vacancy if you’re expecting:
1. Harry Potter. Don’t expect a story of gigantic proportions like HP just because J.K. Rowling is the author.
2. A children’s book. Dear lord, this is NOT a children’s book! If you’re going to be offended by foul language and rather unpleasant topics and characters, this is not the book for you.
3. Action and adventure and excitement. This is a story about a small country town and the little things that occupy the lives of its inhabitants. And while little things can sure turn into a big deal, there are no great magical battles (sorry to disappoint you).
DO read The Casual Vacancy if you’re expecting:
1. Great characters. The Casual Vacancy hosts a fairly large cast of characters, and each one has great depth and feeling. Rowling includes the perfect about of background and detail to make each character a unique individual. Even the character that dies in the first chapter, and thus sets in motion the events of the book, has depth and is an important character throughout the story.
2. A story about real life issues that matter. This story examines the relationships between spouses, parents and children, friends, and neighbors; it examines bullying and abuse; it deals with poverty and teenage pregnancy; it delves into cutting and mental illness; and it deals with death and grieving.
3. A well-written book. Hey, this is J.K. Rowling after all!
Rowling, J. K. The Casual Vacancy. London: Little, Brown and, 2012.
Image from BN.com.