Monday, February 18, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

Title: The Casual Vacancy

Author: J.K. Rowling aka Joanne "Jo" Rowling; Read by Tom Hollander (link to IMDB)

Publisher: Hachette Audio

ISBN: 9781619695009

Length: 15 discs; 18 hours

Obtained: Library copy


Oh, what to say about this one. I wanted to read it because it's J.K. Rowling, of course. Not because I thought it'd be Harry Potter or like Harry Potter - I didn't. But how can I say she's a favorite author if I've only read the one series and never tried anything else by her? I decided on trying it in audio format because, from what I knew of it (not much, btw), it seemed like it should suit that format well.

It's a lengthy book, made more so when in audio format, so it took me awhile to read it. I started it in November and had it out for 2 weeks, but I could not renew it because others had it on hold. I didn't start back up again until this January, leaving a large pause in the middle for me to forget details as well as forget the crispness of the emotions portrayed in the book.

But perhaps you're waiting to hear what I thought of the book itself?

You may or may not know that I'm not a huge fan of description. I mean, obviously some description is necessary, but too much of it makes my head swim. I become bored and lose focus and this is especially troublesome in audio books. The Casual Vacancy includes much description. The local politics and the many characters (and there are many, many characters) need to be introduced. And Rowling goes into such depth with each character; the reader is aware of all the deep dark secrets a person might have.

Which brings me to the other reason I didn't love this book. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I read to escape reality. I rarely read "literature" or general fiction, really, because for some reason literature goes hand and hand with the problems of humanity. The Casual Vacancy is positively seeped in realism. Everything from the cons, the abusers, the drug-users and alcoholics, the proud (i.e. haughty), the teen looking at porn or becoming sexually active, the abused and the abuser, the teen who is cutting and has suicidal ideology, the wife who is unhappy in her marriage and dreams of a younger man (dreams that include a younger version of herself), the mentally ill (you may recall my father is mentally ill, so this was familiar though different), those who are raped (I despise rape scenes.  They literally make me sick.) ... I can go on and on. You see all of that in this book. But rare are the happy lives. If they exist, then those characters aren't made available to the reader.

Part of both the description and the detailed character portrayal elements that I, personally, wasn't fond of is how graphic everything was. The language, the "sex" elements, pretty much everything that could be graphic was. I prefer things glossed over.

Anyway, when I restarted the book I hoped things would get better. I was resigned to the gloom, and was left simply hoping that by the end at least some of the characters would find some contentment - some peace. Not to spoil things too much (if I haven't already), but only a few characters (of the many) ended up with at least the potential for contentment (though not really the peace or happiness itself that I had hoped for).

All of that being said, I can't deny that the writing was great, Rowling did an excellent job of getting into the characters heads. And the story is one that makes you think about it after it's over.

Would I read another adult book by Rowling?  Probably.  Would I be a bit more cautious when doing so?  Absolutely.

And to follow up with a brief reading by the author as well as part of an interview... (In which Rowling says it's a humorous book - dark humor.  That's not quite how I saw it... interesting, how perspective works.)


  1. Ms. Rowling isn't on my fave list and I'm probably to ONLY reader in the world to think so. That said, even fans have criticized this one.

    1. Nonsense. People like my ma who refuse to try anything even slightly fantastical wouldn't have her on their fave list (based on past writing). Not to mention the extremists who want the Potter books banned. ;p

      I think you have to have specific tastes to really love this one. Unfortunately, those aren't my tastes.


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