Thursday, 4 October 2012

GoodRead - The Casual Vacancy

I only finished this yesterday so am still in this weird haze of "Oh my God!" and "What the hell happened?" and "Why do I have this weird achy feeling in my chest, like when I finished Maggot Moon?" (not read that? *gasps* here's the review... then come back and we can talk...)

Right, before I go any further, I feel like I need to state the following: THIS IS NOT A HARRY POTTER NOVEL!!! If you think this is a "grown up" Harry Potter, then you better put the book down and move along. Also, this is an adult novel so the language used and the subject matters are only suitable for adults. So DON'T give this to your child! I will state this several times in this post, so you have been warned!

Right, ok. Still with us? Right, here we go...

The small county town of Pagford is in a state of shock when well-liked Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, leaving his seat on the Parish Council vacant. A Casual Vacancy. With the town secretly at war with itself, and with the hot topic for the Parish Council being the local council estate, The Fields, and the addiction clinic, the Bellchapel, the reader has to ask itself: is this seat worth it? And how well do we know our neighbours?

So, light reading, right? Wrong! This book tackles very dark issues - self-harm, domestic violence, rape, drug abuse, mental health, child neglect and poverty to name a few - and with there being swear words (oh, the SHOCK!), this isn't a light read. When you are going to read this, you are going to read something dark and quite dense.

Now, I completely get why some people have dislike this book. It is a marmite read. You're either going to love it or hate it. There's no middle ground about this!

Now, oddly, I liked this. This isn't my cup of tea in reading, but I enjoyed reading these characters. I found the novel very interesting. It felt like I was reading about the human nature. Why do we do the things we do? Why do we stay when the situation is so out of our control and, when it is, how do we get control back?

This also tackled the issue of responsibility. Who is responsible for those who are less fortunate than ourselves? And when do we realise our responsibilities? Early in the day, or until it is too late?

In my honest opinion, I found this book very dark and very dense (some people have compared this to a Charles Dickens novel - I can't say this as I haven't read any Dickens' novel). And yet, this is a very powerful novel (I read parts 6 and 7 with my hand over my mouth and, when I finished the book, chatting to my other half on the phone, trying to get over the horrible feeling that weighed down on my chest).

This won't be everyone's cup of tea. I say this to you so you can decide for yourselves. I am glad I read it as I think JK Rowling was very brave to write this. This won't suit everyone but, after a hugely successful series like Harry Potter, she wrote it anyway. And for that, I thank you. She has proven that she is not a "one series" wonder.

PS - if you haven't read my blog post about seeing JK Rowling live at the South Bank Centre in London, you can click here to read about it!

PPS - I never liked the Rihanna song Umbrella. And now, thanks to JK, I can never listen to it again without thinking of this book/one or two characters. Thanks, JK.


  1. Oh I just LOVED your review! Couldn't agree more, so glad you enjoyed this too!

  2. I've just finsihed reviewing this, and I drew the Dickens's comparison. I'd definitely say it stands up given the moral stance of the novel.

    However, I don't think I enjoyed it nearly so much as you - which is a shame because I really, really wanted to. Ah well, I'll have to wait for the next one :s

    1. I think there's a lot of pressure on the book and there were times I did go "I'm not sure if I'm going to enjoy this", so I completely get your reaction.

      But yeah, now the waiting for her next book...