Reading The Casual Vacancy

After some trouble with the mail system over here, The Casual Vacancy finally arrived this week and I’m trying to read it between studying breaks. So far (I’m only 50 pages into it) I’m just getting used to the characters and J.K Rowling’s style.

When I purchased it back in June, I read it was a book about a village where a prominent figure dies and leaves a casual vacancy, hence the title. From that little description, I imagined a typical English novel set in a village with the typical (and stereotypical) characters fighting for the job. In my mind, The Casual Vacancy was a modern Cranford, a modern Tamara Drewe. But as I dared to read reviews on the net, I couldn’t believe my eyes: people spoke of strong language and sex. Nothing cozy, nothing like Cranford but more like Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Now that I’m reading it, I agree with bloggers that The Casual Vacancy is far from the edulcorated little description that came out in June. But I’m not hating it, yet. The book makes quick, easy reading for a sleepy student trying to fit some reading inbetween more books. And it’s OK. I didn’t expect another literary landmark, like Harry Potter was: let’s give Rowling the recognition she deserves for the Harry Potter series and do not expect so much from here, again.

The Casual Vacancy is, so far, a description of a little English village where different social classes clash, meet and interact, where family feuds are still alive and kids, like those everywhere else, smoke, have problems in school and at home and just try to survive while dreaming of a better life. If you’ve read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, you know what I’m talking about. It’s both a realistic description of everyday life, adorned with harsh criticism.

So, The Casual Vacancy a 21st century novel, where people have problems, swear and sexuality is no longer 100% absent from narrative. This is also a 21st century bestseller by an already billionaire author. Let’s keep that in mind.



  • Belle

    It will so look forward to your review of this. I quit on page 186. I tried to hang in there but found myself not really caring one bit about the outcome. I’ve since read some reviews and spoilers and found that it perhaps picks up in plot somewhere along the way. I think I need a faster start than Rowlings was willing to give.

    • Elena

      I hope to have the review “soon”, Belle, but you know how college can get on your way in these situations.

      I’m being patient and thinking this is just the beginning, I’m slowly meeting the the characters. We’ll see how it goes…

  • Ann Weisgarber

    Rowling is brave to try something new, and I’d love to see this live up to Harry Potter standards. That’s a big act to follow, though. The book was released recently in the States but I haven’t talked to anyone who’s read it. I’ll stay tuned in for your review.

    • Elena

      This has nothing to do with Harry Potter, in fact, Rowling herself said she was inspired by the years she relied on welfare, those days before Harry Potter when she was “poor as you can be without being homeless.”

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