Summary and book reviews of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. (Joanne) Rowling

The Casual Vacancy

by J.K. (Joanne) Rowling

The Casual Vacancy
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2012, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2013, 512 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults.

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 façade 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.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The problem with The Casual Vacancy is that the vast cast of characters and all their machinations leave little room for character development. Rowling's characters come across as cardboard cutouts, one-dimensional substitutes for the real thing. Even the situations in the story seem contrived and overly melodramatic – there are very few shades of grey here. Even if The Casual Vacancy might not have fully rounded characters or shades of subtlety in its telling, it finally is an entertaining novel.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (633 words).

Media Reviews

NY Times

Instead of an exhilarating sense of the mythic possibilities of storytelling, we are left with a numbing understanding of the difficulty of turning a dozen or so people’s tales into a story with genuine emotional resonance.

Los Angeles Times

[Pangford] is little more than a backdrop, a stage set, its lack of depth an emblem of Rowling's inability to engage us, to invest us sufficiently in her characters, young or otherwise, to reckon with the contrivances of her fictional world.

The Huffington Post

Generally well-written... a good, though not great, book about small-town, small-minded England.

NY Daily News

“The Casual Vacancy,” which one bookseller breathlessly predicted would be the biggest novel of the year, isn’t dreadful. It’s just dull.

Wall Street Journal

This book represents a truckload of shrewdness.... There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully....genuinely moving.

People

A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight.

The Washington Post

There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully....Much of the book I admired, even if I didn’t love..

People

A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight.

Publishers Weekly

Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren't much fun.

Kirkus Reviews

A departure and a revelation, though the story is dark and doesn't offer much in the way of redemption (or, for that matter, much in the way of laughs). Still, this Rowling person may have a career as a writer before her.

The Guardian (UK)

A solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel... The Casual Vacancy is no masterpiece, but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny. I could imagine it doing well without any association to the Rowling brand

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

a brilliant read
The Casual Vacancy is the first adult novel by popular British author, J.K.Rowling. This contemporary fiction is set in the seemingly idyllic English village of Pagford, where the sudden death of Parish Councillor, Barry Fairbrother creates a casual ...   Read More

Maeve Caplin

A Casual Vacancy. J K Rowling
A really great first adult book, reminding me of Parrish Council meetings in the 60s and 70s- which I suffered as a child. Well written, witty and true to life.

Diane S.

Not a happy little town
An unhappy little town filled with unhappy, unlikable people but somehow rather addicting nonetheless. Great characterizations, wonderfully dark, tongue in cheek writing, actually kind of reminded me of the town I live in and our relations with the ...   Read More

MaryBeth

Awful
Rowling in my option tried too hard to prove that she could write a book written for adults. The language and sexual situations were sometimes over descriptive and awkwardly used. Hard to imagine that in the small town of Pagford there was not one ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The West Country & Council Estates

J. K. Rowling grew up in England's West Country, which is an informal term used to embrace the southwestern part of England, the peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The West Country doesn't have any rigid borders but generally includes the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. A looser definition also includes all or parts of the counties of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

Chepstow Castle and BridgeRowling grew up in the towns of Winterbourne and Tutshill in Gloucestershire. She also spent some time in Chepstow, which is actually in Wales, with suburbs spilling across the boarder into neighboring Gloucestershire. Chepstow also boasts a castle plenty capable of firing up the imagination. These towns, like much of the rest of the West ...

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