One fact you probably don't know about me is that I'm a gigantic Harry Potter fan. I would say I was part of the original HP generation, aging at a similar rate to Harry and his friends, as the books were released. Since I am such a huge fan of Harry Potter, there was no way I would be able to resist reading The Casual Vacancy. Part of me wanted to resist but I was curious and I was going to see J.K Rowling at the Cheltenham Literary Festival read from The Casual Vacancy, talk about the book and answer audience questions. I had to read it!
I had a wonderful time at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, meeting J.K. Rowling and having my book signed was a dream come true, and it was fascinating to hear her talk about her book. Whilst I was there I also saw Benedict Cumberbatch talk about making BBC Sherlock. A great event, and I recommend the Cheltenham Literary Festival to all book enthusiasts.
What's it about?
When Barry Fairbrother suddenly dies in his early forties, the outwardly idyllic village of Pagford is shocked. Behind closed doors of Pagford, there is always a war going on between husbands and wives, parents and teenagers, teachers and pupils. Barry's death leaves a casual vacancy on the parish council, which causes the largest war that Pagford has ever seen.
What did I think of it?
I had no idea what to expect with this book. I simply read it because it was written by J. K. Rowling. I knew it would be nothing like Harry Potter and I was proved correct. The foul language was one of the greatest surprises. I didn't expect so many F words or C words!
At first I wasn't sure if I'd get into it, but after awhile I was sucked into it all. There were some characters' storylines that I preferred, and some I struggled to care about (Gavin). I thought the book brought to light some challenging issues, for instance one character is the troubled daughter of a drug addict, trying desperately to prevent her younger brother being taken into care, whilst another teenage character is struggling with self harm. There are also some very unpleasant family relationships and the old mother-in-law issues. I didn't expect any of that but gave the book a bit of grit.
In essence this book is a character study similar to old nineteenth century literature. There isn't much in the way of plot other than the election of a new councillor and the debate over who should be responsible for the council estate on the edge of Pagford called the Fields and it's addiction clinic. The novel focuses on around 17 or 18 characters of several different generations and upbringings. It examines the theme of responsibility, and the impact each action has on others and the character themselves.
There is also a theme of redemption. J.K. Rowling herself said that she thought only two of the characters beyond redemption- Simon and Obbo. The others all have some sort of goodness in them. Her favourite character is Fats, who is a rather unpleasant teenage boy trying to deal with the fact his father possibly hates him. I was somewhat surprised as I disliked Fats- I felt sorry for him, but not enough to like him as a character. My favourite character in the book is Krystal, who is a teenage girl living in the Fields, with a heroin addicted mother.
The novel is fairly heartbreaking in places but there are definitely plenty of funny and comical moments.
This book is very much for those who enjoy delving into characters and are not plot driven readers. If you like a linear fast moving plot with a few central characters (much like Harry Potter), then this is not the book for you. If however you do like a slower book that examines characters more intimately then you'll probably enjoy it.
Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 12 out of 50