Monday, October 15, 2012

Book review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This is my book review of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, world-renowned author, best known for the brilliant Harry Potter series (in case you didn't know).

Synopsis: When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

Let me start by saying that I was so excited about this book, I literally was jumping up and down like a 3-year-old with a new toy when my son surprised me with it one evening. This sweet kid of mine used his first paycheck from his new job to buy this for me. It meant the world to me to own this. I'm a huge fan of Rowling and the Harry Potter book series, and I read all seven of them twice.

It pains me to say that I didn't like this book ... AT ALL. It was dreadful. In the first 25 pages, I was more taken aback by the number of F-bombs and profanity than the actual storyline. The most likeable character dies on page 5, and you're left with a town full of horrible people. I found the synopsis to be quite boring but thought, "surely, there's some mind-blowing discovery awaiting me in these upcoming pages!" I waited and waited and patiently read on and on and on until I wanted to throw it out of my second story window. I can't tell you how many times I said out loud, "Are you kidding me, J.K.? Where was your editorial staff, and why didn't they save this!?" I've read product labels with a deeper plot than this book. There was nothing to hold on to, nothing to keep you thirsty for more. So what, a councilman dies suddenly and the whole town starts gossiping, backstabbing and ridiculing each other over who will get elected to replace him. No, seriously, that's it! That's the whole book. This book had 503 pages, and I didn't develop the slightest bit of interest in any of the characters until the last 100 pages, only because of some overdone profanity and classic douchebaggery. But I can get that on DirecTV.

Comma drama

I noticed some serious punctuation abuse in the first quarter of the book, not to mention, she couldn't write a complete sentence without injecting some random thought in parenthesis smack in the middle of it. That drove me bonkers to not be able to read a complete thought! I got dizzy at how often she paused a sentence with several commas and thoughts in a row. This is one rule in life I like to honor - "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." The prose was weak all the way through until the bitter end. The story was so incredibly redundant all the way through, going back and forth from family to family, describing their drama and fights and what they had for dinner, who was punching his wife or kid in the face, who was "shagging" who and who drank too much. It seemed like she was trying way too hard to make this book "adult." There was not one single character that seemed likeable except the one who died on page 5! They were all miserable and unhappy. Abuse, marital discord, shitty parenting, a pedophile, rape, junkies, unruly and disrespectful kids, F-bombs galore and explicit sexual content between teenagers!? *gasp* Oh, by the way, "snogging" means kissing.

Another obnoxious thing she did that made me want to run my Jeep over this book was she TRIED to emulate certain accents by spelling things all weird and with an immense amount of apostrophes. I was fumbling trying to pronounce it all. It sounded like Hagarith, to be honest. I mean, just say they are from so-and-so town, and let us use our imagination! Sheesh!

The bitter end

The book starts off with a certain twist, and pretty much ends with the same twist, so you go full circle and never get anywhere. A great book leaves you thinking about the story and its characters long after you've read it. This book was so difficult to finish reading. If it wasn't for my adoration for Rowling coupled with my OCD about finishing books, I wouldn't have made it past page 130. And I shit you not, this whole big, fat book was nothing but a prolonged description of your most-disliked family members and all their terrible characteristics multiplied by ten and a soap opera with NO happy scenes. I don't mind any amount of profanity or cursing once it's GOING somewhere. If there's a point to it, then, hey, bring it on.

The best thing about this novel, other than finishing it and being able to get on with my life, was when all the town's teenagers got to the point where they hated their parents so much, they did devious things to ensure they didn't get elected. The crack whore prostitute mom and her crack whore daughter who shagged every guy at school were the most interesting characters simply because they were the most loathsome. A council member doctor breaks her code of ethics during a council meeting and lashes out at another member by calling him out about all his confidential medical problems, namely being fat and having a skin rash under his belly flab. Wooooo! Edge of my seat ---- NOT. This book was so boring, a couple times I fell asleep while reading it and woke up in a daze hours later like, "Where am I? Hopefully not Pagford."

I read that Rowling didn't even want to speak to anyone who didn't cry after reading this story. Well, J.K., I cried, all right, but not for the reason you intended. If I cried, it was because I'll never get all those hours of my life back. I hope she has some real hits up her sleeve because this was a miss. We all know she's capable. With all due respect to this mega-superstar author, this was a painful read, and that's coming from a fan who is a writer and avid reader.

I gave it 1 star.  =(


  1. If that's what it came down to i'm truly shocked! Maybe she was trying to describe where society is headed. That's what it seems like to me. Some books aren't about the happy ending, it's about making a statement.She's one of the few authors who can write what the readers won't like but need to hear. I'll still give it a chance just because of the Author :)

  2. Oh, you should definitely give it a chance. I want to know what you think. I was browsing the reviews for it on, and it's quite sad. I thought, "Whew! So I'm not the only one, thank goodness."She's a very talented lady, but this wasn't her best work. I am not a fan of cliche happy endings myself, but this didn't seem to have any purpose. The plot was weak as a thread. :( I would still read whatever she writes, though, because I know what she's capable of.