Ariel's Reviews > The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
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's review
Nov 23, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: english-fiction
Read from October 11 to November 14, 2012

Of course I am one of those who loved Harry Potter with an extreme passion. It is very difficult to fairly review this book which is just about as much as a departure from Harry Potter as could be possible. Not an owl or even one magical cat in a witch's hat is in sight. I think a lot of the backlash against this book is rooted in readers disappointment that J.K.Rowling did not stick to the Harry Potter universe. Obviously she never had to write another word with her previous success so I for one am extremely interested in seeing what she wanted to put out when she could have been doing just about anything else her heart desired. So what we get is another story just as richly imagined as the Hogwarts group but they are dealing with real life issues that are anything but magical.

The story starts with the death of Barry Fairbrother. As J.K. is so clever in doing, the characters name often clues you in to what they are about. In this case Barry was really a fair brother to his fellow mankind. He was one of the few people on the council who wanted the Fields to stay with his town of Pagford rather than neighboring Yarvil. The Fields contains a methadone clinic which helps drug addicts kick the habit, a facility the upstanding people of Pagford want nothing to do with. But are they so upstanding? The faces the people of Pagford present to the world do not match what is really going on in their homes. Although the people of Pagford want their community to think they are leading the perfect lives they are really a bunch of child abusers, thieves, and adulterers who are not to mention selfish and petty. The people from the Fields are a lot less wealthy than the Pagford crowd so it is not as easy for them to conceal their sins from the world. All secrets are exposed though when the children of Pagford start sharing their parents misdeeds on line in postings attributed to the "Ghost of Barry Fairbrother." Along with the plot of the Pagford people we are given the story of Krystal and her family who due to circumstances not their fault never have a chance of succeeding in life. Krystal leaves the Fields each day to attend a better school in Pagford where through Barry Fairbrother she finds that she has genuine athletic talent in the sport of rowing. Even though she has this great opportunity her home life is so awful that it obliterates her chances at ever achieving a better life. Krystal's storyline culminates in a tragedy that leaves the upstanding citizens of Pagford to finally examine their moral lives.

To be honest I had a really hard time getting into this book. J.K. throws so many characters at you that is hard to keep them all straight. Add to that they are very unlikeable and so are their children. The whole town is filled with the most annoying selfish and in some cases criminal people ever. You have to get past all of that to get to the heart of the story. I think she is calling for compassion for the people that you will encounter who have really horrible lives and as a consequence make poor choices that other "upstanding" people will want to judge them on. So called "upstanding" people who have no business judging anybody. This novel was dirty, gritty and very unhappy. It was also a good story that had a moral message for everyone who cares to hear it. I get why some people can not get past the Trainspotting aspect of the story but I am still a fan. I will always be interested in reading anything J.K.Rowling can think up.
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Reading Progress

10/17/2012 page 100
11/13/2012 page 300
59.0% "I cannot believe I am still reading this. It is taking forever. I just want to finish." 1 comment
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lynne Baum Ariel once again I enjoy your review. I just started reading this while never picking up Harry potter and couldn't get into the movies. This book however has instantly grabbed my attention. I always like to read your reviews while I'm reading something u have already read so I get a better understanding of the book. I agree the smug people of pagford don't want to associate with the unfortunates and this is a very real dilemma everywhere. I can't wait to see where this winds up. Thanks for insightful review.

message 2: by Ariel (last edited Jun 14, 2013 08:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ariel Thanks Lynne, you are so sweet. This was a book that I had a hard time getting in to but once I got everyone straight it picked up steam. If you like this try this book next: It is also a gritty tale but one I enjoyed.

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