Katherine Coble's Reviews > The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
295586
's review
Sep 27, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: abandoned, fiction-with-a-not-so-hidden-agenda, tabled-for-later

** spoiler alert ** ETA: I'm so sick and tired of snarking on this original review from Rowling fans who are sore aggrieved that I have criticised the naked empress and from the Hipster GoodReads Police who have standards for review content that substantially differs from the site's policy. So I'm doing what i loathe doing and copying my Amazon review here. I try to keep them different, because my GoodReads reviews are for a different audience. But whatever. I sweat to Bast I now loathe EVERYTHING about this bloody book. Not only the book itself but the butthurt throngs who are climbing out of the woodwork. Good holy cats, you'd think JK Rowling nursed the millennial generation at her golden teat from the throngs going out of their way on this. So anyway, here is the thrice-damned book's Amazon review which went into greater detail about my relationship to this book over the past five years.

>>I pre-ordered this with some trepidation. When she first mentioned years ago that she was writing a "political fairy story for adults" I didn't think I would be fully on board without more details. When word came earlier this year that the book would drop during the eight-week "sweet spot" before the Presidential Election in the United States I grew leery. There are a lot of political issues about which Rowling and I seem to generally agree but I felt that the danger of this being a bleak polemic was high.

When the download was delivered to my Kindle on release day the font size error made reading difficult. But I'll read anything; I've been known to hide under the sheets with a flashlight and a magnifying glass to drink in a really great read. I struggled through the first "day"; a bleak prologue describing the mundane sadness of the hero's ordinary life, ending with him dead face-down in a pool of his own vomit while his wife of nineteen years crouches by, disheveled and weeping.

Good times!

(oh, at one point Rowling--presumably not wanting to use the word "car" twice in one sentence--refers to the vehicle as "a people carrier". Awkwardness, meet Trying too Hard)

I ended up returning the Kindle version, giving it up as a bad job. My 1-star review on GoodReads was greeted with foul language, hate mail and cries of "no fair! You can't review it if you didn't read it all".

I maintain that one can state equivocally that one does not like a book once you've read enough of it to get the general feel of tone and language. It's not possible to analyze the whole work, of course, or to discuss themes. But it is indeed quite possible to make up one's mind after watching Bored Barry and disinterested Mary take the people carrier through Tweetown to the inevitable brain aneurysm, barf and bawling. (yes, Mary and Barry. Political injoke? Cutesypoo attempt at projecting a dull normalcy? Trying too Hard, meet Awkward.)

I've read more excerpts today at the encouragement of fellow bibliophiles. The book seems to want so badly to be _The Wire: Season Three_ as told by Jane Austen. It just feels...empty.

No, I haven't read the whole thing and I'm honestly not likely to. I appreciate her efforts and what I presume to be some of her intentions to shed a light on social justice issues. But I no longer invite boorish people to dinner and I no longer read bleak books.


*****what follows here is the original, brief GoodReads review*****I've written volumes already for FB discussions and on my own blog. What it comes down to is simply this:
The font on the Kindle version was unreadably small. After struggling through the prologue (and not enjoying it), I returned my copy.

What I did read was grim and depressive and not what I was interested in at the moment. Perhaps somewhere down the line if they fix the Kindle version and I'm in a different place emotionally I may try my hand at reading it again.

ETA: Several folk seem unaware that there was indeed a known corruption on the Kindle File Format the day of release. It was fixed by the next day. I am aware that it is possible to change the font size on a Kindle. However said change had little to no effect on the body copy of the novel.
35 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Casual Vacancy.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

11/24/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 67) (67 new)


Jaimie Teekell If you didn't like the prologue, you'll hate the book. I found the prologue quite amusing.


Rafael Doesn't read book. Rates it anyways. Fuck logic.


Katherine Coble Rafael wrote: "Doesn't read book. Rates it anyways. F--- logic."

It's extremely logical. I didn't like what I read and said so. I was upfront that I didn't finish it. Why should I ruin my eyes and waste my time on a book I didn't like? At least I admitted I didn't read it.


Katherine Coble Jaimie wrote: "If you didn't like the prologue, you'll hate the book. I found the prologue quite amusing."

Dude dying in a puddle of his own vomit is amusing?


Jaimie Teekell If you frame it that way, no. But the setup of his calmly insignificant life, the foreshadowing with the headache, the little details of his TV-droned children and how he was humoring his wife on their anniversary and didn't even want to go to dinner really... this is probably what my day will look like when I will die. And yet we fear death. Amusing.


Katherine Coble Jaimie wrote: "If you frame it that way, no. But the setup of his calmly insignificant life, the foreshadowing with the headache, the little details of his TV-droned children and how he was humoring his wife on t..."

I will probably have to revisit this down the road. My dog is dying, I just buried my grandmother on Saturday and my brother in law committed suicide three months ago. (I say this not for sympathy but to provide context). Since part of what makes a reading experience is the reader's frame of mind I knew by the end of the prologue that this book and I are not in the same place right now.

One of my favourite aspects of Rowling is how she uses subtle tricks of language to satirise and illuminate. I'm hoping she can do that for Village Life. I was really looking forward to this as something like the TV show "Jam & Jerusalem" (forget what it was called in the states.) The prologue didn't seem to be taking that direction.


message 7: by Oz (new) - rated it 1 star

Oz But you can change the font and size on the kindle?


Katherine Coble Oz wrote: "But you can change the font and size on the kindle?"

This was at the largest setting. The file was screwed up. Gizmodo did an article about it this afternoon.


message 9: by Oz (last edited Sep 27, 2012 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Oz Ah right =]


Sabrina They fixed it this afternoon. Did yours get fixed too?


Katherine Coble Elsie wrote: "They fixed it this afternoon. Did yours get fixed too?"

I returned it this morning. I'll wait until I'm in a better frame of mind before trying to read it again. Until then there's little point in tying up that twenty dollars.


Jaimie Teekell Katherine, that makes sense. Best of luck to you. I don't know you but all of that sucks. :(


Agnibha Basumallick Give it a go. If you ever liked JKR's writing for the sake of it, you would find Casual Vacancy a treasure.


Rebecca Strain Kindle released an update to the book this morning to fix the font. You should receive an email about it, if you haven't already.


message 15: by Jenna (new) - added it

Jenna While I respect your opinion of not enjoying it at the moment, I don't think it fair to rate a book on Goodreads that you haven't actually finished.


Katherine Coble Jenna wrote: "While I respect your opinion of not enjoying it at the moment, I don't think it fair to rate a book on Goodreads that you haven't actually finished."

I think "I hated this and didn't want to finish it so it gets 1 star" is very fair. Especially since 1-star means "hated it" and I was honest about not finishing it.

I presume you're also deriding every Fandom Squee who gave the thing 5 stars sight unseen back in June.


message 17: by Jenna (new) - added it

Jenna I don't look around GR enough to do such a thing and came across yours by chance, but I don't support people rating a book not finished period, good or bad review. Regardless, I appreciate the honesty about not finishing it.


message 18: by D.M. (new)

D.M. Dutcher There's an issue with Kindle in which if the book uses HTML a certain way, it causes this. If it's that error, it actually reads fine on older kindles, the fire, the web, and mobile, but it gets screwed up seriously on the Kindle touches. Maybe they'll finally fix that bug if it even affects Rowling.


message 19: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam It's actually quite possible to change the font size for your Kindle books, did you try that?


Katherine Coble Sam wrote: "It's actually quite possible to change the font size for your Kindle books, did you try that?"

Contrary to your first impression of me I am not a stone eejit.

This was a documented file error on the part of Amazon. As I mentioned to another person above, the error was covered by Gizmodo.


message 21: by Imi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Imi OK,you are honest about not reading it,but still: rating a 500 page-book after the prologue,which is what,3 pages? come on...


message 22: by Anne (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anne You CAN change the font size if it's too small! Also if you don't like a book return it... I couldn't even finish 50 shades of... & kindle refunded me & Costco takes back whatever... :)


Jaimie Teekell Anne, Kindle refunded a book you couldn't finish? Seriously? I need to try this.


message 24: by justanya (new)

justanya So that we're clear, you gave the book 1 star because of how it appears on your Kindle ( which has nothing to do with Rowling) and only read the prologue which is only what 2 pages out of 500+? That's a snap decision. I'm surprised you didn't arrive to tha conclusion via reading the summary.

Just a friendly FYI, Save yourself the future headache and download samples before tying up $ in a book ESP a book you don't like and already returned to get a refund.


Becky Yost Katherine wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Doesn't read book. Rates it anyways. F--- logic."

It's extremely logical. I didn't like what I read and said so. I was upfront that I didn't finish it. Why should I ruin my eyes ..."


How can you rate a book that you didn't read? Just because you didn't like the prologue doesn't mean you can rate the entire book off of a few pages. Part of your disdain for the book also seems to come from the fact that your Kindle version was improperly formatted. The fact that you included this in your "book" review clearly shows that you were more upset over the fact that you could not read the small print and were less concerned with the actual content of the pages.


message 26: by Agnibha (last edited Sep 29, 2012 11:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Agnibha Basumallick I don't think you did CV a justice, and that as always is your choice.You were honest in your dislike & I quite understand it loving the CV very much myself.

If you didn't like the prologue, the rest of the book would unlikely be a mood-lifter for you as the prologue is probably one of the more gentle chapters of the novel.

Yeah I heard from my friends that Kindle did run into a technical glitch & had to re-distribute an update fix. BBC did a story on that I think.


message 27: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Have you ever tried changing the alignment and holding the Kindle sideways? That's how I deal with .pdf files with teeny, tiny font, and it usually does the trick for me, anyway.


message 28: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Jenna wrote: "While I respect your opinion of not enjoying it at the moment, I don't think it fair to rate a book on Goodreads that you haven't actually finished."

According to the Terms of Service on this site, you can rate a book based only on your opinion of whether or not you will enjoy it, so that people who rate books they haven't even read because of allegations against the author are perfectly within their rights to do so. At least Katherine gave this a fair shake...


Katherine Coble Katy wrote: "Have you ever tried changing the alignment and holding the Kindle sideways? That's how I deal with .pdf files with teeny, tiny font, and it usually does the trick for me, anyway."

Katy, I do a lot of Beta reading, most of which is PDF. So there are weeks where my Kindle stays in landscape 24/7. It IS a huge help.


message 30: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Me, to, Katherine - well, I'm more the ARC rather than beta, but it's all pdf!


message 31: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn My book came from Kobo and no way it was readable with very small print that couldn't be enlarged. I have bought and read over 200 books from Kobo and this never happened before. I tried to read it on Kobo Reader, 2 Sony Readers and Bluefire and same problem, so problem not unique to Kindle.My book is epub.


message 32: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Carolyn wrote: "My book came from Kobo and no way it was readable with very small print that couldn't be enlarged. I have bought and read over 200 books from Kobo and this never happened before. I tried to read it..."

Have they updated the file for you?


message 33: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn No it is not fixed. I called Kobo at 7.30 am today and they said they were aware of the problem but don't have a replacement file yet. Have been trying with considerable eyes train to read it since day of release. Have given up.


Katherine Coble Carolyn wrote: "No it is not fixed. I called Kobo at 7.30 am today and they said they were aware of the problem but don't have a replacement file yet. Have been trying with considerable eyes train to read it since..."

Carolyn, I admire your perseverence. If that ePub file is anything like the Kindle file, it's abysmally small. Coupon expiration date small.


message 35: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Even turning the reader into landscape mode hasn't helped enlarge it enough to be read. Kobo told me this morning that if I didn't get a readable file within 10 days to contact them again. Looks like $20 wasted, but from what I have struggled to view so far it may be one of the few books I don't read to the end.


message 36: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Carolyn wrote: "Even turning the reader into landscape mode hasn't helped enlarge it enough to be read. Kobo told me this morning that if I didn't get a readable file within 10 days to contact them again. Looks li..."

I know that, from what I have learned so far from reviews and talking to folks who have read it, I think I will like it if I'm in the proper mindframe. The problem, it appears, is that it is highly realistic, and reality, as we know, is less than entertaining. However, it sounds as though it also has that dry British humor that I find so terribly funny, so I guess we'll see. I'm waiting on a cheap copy, 'cause I just don't have the fundage to pay full price on anything these days.


Katherine Coble Katy, I keep hoping that in a few months when the reaper (hopefully) takes her sickle to someplace else and the press dies down that I can give it a less jaundiced eye.

I've now read quite a few bits of it, between the pages I read the first day and the samples available at different booksellers. While this style of fiction is never my favourite (Austen *ugh), the book has Rowling's voice all through it.

Knowing that Austen is her favourite author I'm interested to see how Rowling handles an Austen-style social commentary.


Katherine Coble Carolyn wrote: "Even turning the reader into landscape mode hasn't helped enlarge it enough to be read. Kobo told me this morning that if I didn't get a readable file within 10 days to contact them again. Looks li..."

I can't believe Kobo won't refund it outright. That's some dirty pool on their part.


message 39: by D.M. (new)

D.M. Dutcher Knowing that Austen is her favourite author I'm interested to see how Rowling handles an Austen-style social commentary.


I'm probably going to get savaged for this, but it was an incredibly dumb move for her to even try. Look at it this way, if Judy Blume couldn't make the transition from children's author to adult one well (who here has read Wifey for example?) Rowling has no chance. It seems to be near impossible for someone who is known for kids books to cross over, if they started as a kids author first. Even if they are a fine author-Joan Aiken for one comes to mind.


Katherine Coble D.M. wrote: "Knowing that Austen is her favourite author I'm interested to see how Rowling handles an Austen-style social commentary.


I'm probably going to get savaged for this, but it was an incredibly dumb..."


Wifey was dreadful. I actually quite enjoyed _Summer Sisters_ which came many years afterward. I think Blume was done trying to be Erica Jong.


message 41: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy D.M. wrote: "Knowing that Austen is her favourite author I'm interested to see how Rowling handles an Austen-style social commentary.


I'm probably going to get savaged for this, but it was an incredibly dumb..."


Actually, a lot of authors who started of in MG and YA fiction successfully transitioned to adult fiction. It's unfair to say that due to the readers' expectations, which were heavily unrealistic in this case, Rowling should not be able to write whatever she pleases, IMO. Comparing Rowling to Judy Blume is really not at all the same thing - didn't Blume write "after-school special" type books? I can't recall ever reading anything by her, but I saw them all over the place when I was in MG and High school.


Katherine Coble Heh. I loved Judy Blume books as a girl and never thought of them as "after-school special" type books until now. I liked them because unlike the bulk of the YA genre at the time her characters were actually pretty three dimensional. Which, honestly, is probably a) why the After-school specialness worked and b) didn't feel preachy. You got to know Deenie as a person and so her scoliosis was a big deal. She wasn't just the "girl in the backbrace". And everyone thinks _Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret_ was about a girl getting her period when it was really about a daughter of an interfaith marriage (Catholic mother, Jewish father, IIRC) trying to adjust to middle school and to figure out which religion she wants to believe in. I loved the book so much I read it in three languages. (It was how I practiced Spanish and German reading for class. I knew it well enough in English to follow along, and it helped me pick up idiomatic speech in both.)

Blume was always an "issues" writer who liked to explore the Faulknerian Fiction of "The human heart in conflict with itself".

The problem with Wifey was that it was about really a unrelatable character and the travails of her sex life. It really was exactly Blume trying to be Erica Jong. She stepped away from creating a dimensional character who had issues and instead picked an issue (sexual dissatisfaction at middle age in married life) and plunked a cypher in to mime it for us.

Which, based on the chunks of CV I've read, seems to be a lot of what's happening in the current book in question. Again, though, not having read it this is only my impression.

I don't think it necessarily matters where the author starts out as a successful writer. I think what happens is that sometimes when they transition they get so anxious to "do a story right" that they attempt to mimic others and what comes out feels inorganic and strained.


message 43: by D.M. (new)

D.M. Dutcher Katy, can you name a few? I can't think of any, but I can think of a lot that have started with adult and dipped into kids lit with a few books. Even then they aren't known for them-Terry Pratchett will be known for Discworld's adult books and not the The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30), for example. Generally if they make their name in kids lit first, they stay there. Check out the Newberry Award list, and see how few writers you can recognize for their adult fiction.

I'm not sure if it's readers expectations or the skill set needed to write excellent kids fiction being different from adult works, but it happens.


message 44: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy D.M. wrote: "Katy, can you name a few? I can't think of any, but I can think of a lot that have started with adult and dipped into kids lit with a few books. Even then they aren't known for them-Terry Pratchett..."

I can't remember any of the names of the top of my head, but in another thread several were mentioned. Sorry for my bad memory


message 45: by D.M. (new)

D.M. Dutcher Katy wrote: "D.M. wrote: "Katy, can you name a few? I can't think of any, but I can think of a lot that have started with adult and dipped into kids lit with a few books. Even then they aren't known for them-Te..."

No worries. I'm not saying it isn't unfair, but it's more that it's just very uncommon if it does exist. I mean, if you win a Hugo award in SF, or even are a pop singer or basketball player you can get into the kids market, and sometimes do very well, but the reverse rarely seems to happen in my experience. I wonder why she did it.


message 46: by Johne (new)

Johne I swear I'm going to start swearing to Bast! Brilliant!


Katherine Coble Johne wrote: "I swear I'm going to start swearing to Bast! Brilliant! "

I know I as a Mennonite can't swear an oath. But I also can't live without the rhythmic perfection and emphasis of "I swear to----". So I plug in gods from ancient religions. Or I used to until about a year ago when I realised that "I swear to Bast" was thematically perfect with my perpetually used "holy cats."

And no. I can't believe I put this much thought into it.


message 48: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Johne wrote: "I swear I'm going to start swearing to Bast! Brilliant! "

In a book I recently read, The Hallowed Ones, the monsters (a form of vampire) couldn't come into any holy soil. The Amish teen telling the story was very confused that one of those places was a temple to Bast in a strip mall in New Jersey... :-)


Katherine Coble I should read that, if only to add to my collection of narratives about how The Outside World views us Anabaptists.


message 50: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy Katherine wrote: "I should read that, if only to add to my collection of narratives about how The Outside World views us Anabaptists."

I'm not an expert, but from the little bit I know I think it's fairly accurate. It was a very entertaining story, too.


« previous 1
back to top