The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

The Casual VacancyFact: I would never have read this book if it weren’t for my book club. I have no idea what the reviews look like, but I heard that someone called it “Mugglemarch” and I was like, oh, good, epic domestic fiction, that’s a thing I don’t need to read.

But alas, my dear friends were like, “J.K. Rowling? Harry Potter? Do want!” and so I waited patiently for my library copy, and then slogged through the first hundred pages or so, and then smartly took the book with me on an airplane. Seriously, I think they may have invented airplanes just for the purpose of reading books you wouldn’t otherwise spend time on. I basically tore through the remaining four hundred pages, and I even liked a lot of them!

The problem I had before reading this book, and probably right up through those first hundred pages, is that it’s one of those literary books that eschews plot for meaning and social commentary and blah blah whatever. Booooring.

However, it’s also one of those books that has multiple points of view, with almost every character of the large cast getting a chance to lead the story (though in third person, so if you’re a first-person hater, you’ll be okay!), and also they’re all totally unreliable in their characterizations of themselves and others, as humans are, and they contradict each other almost constantly and I love that kind of writing. Even better, basically every character is a terrible person, which doesn’t sound like a good thing but I think we’ve established that I’m a sucker for hating people.

So, on the whole, I thought it was pretty okay. Rowling’s writing was great, the characters were super interesting, and I really started to feel invested in the town and its future. The things that actually happened in the novel were sometimes ennnhhhh (that is totally a word today), but seeing how said things played out and changed people was delightful.

And now I find myself wanting to read some of those classic epic domestic fictions, which kind of terrifies me, actually, but is probably a good thing. Perhaps Rowling will start a resurgence of Victorian literature that isn’t Twilight-branded! I’m all for that!

Recommendation: A fantastic book club book, but probably not for those who like to like the characters they read about?

Rating: 7/10

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2 thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

  1. Kelly says:

    Really like this review–very balanced! I haven’t decided if I’m going to pick this one up yet. I’m hearing so many conflicting reports.

    • Alison says:

      Thanks! I think a lot of your enjoyment will depend on your expectations, so be careful with those, and also it’s dang long, so don’t worry about reading it until you’re out of books you really want to read!

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