Danielle Howe's Reviews > The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
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's review
Sep 28, 2012

really liked it
Read in September, 2012

It's difficult to know where to begin. There is nothing exciting about the blurb or the front cover of the book besides the large white letters that say 'J.K.Rowling'. Without the famous name of the author, it is unlikely that I would have been drawn towards the story. I am, however, very pleased that I purchased the book.
The Casual Vacancy is so different from Harry Potter, it is almost surprising that the two worlds were created by the same mind. The world of magic wands and flying broomsticks is, on the surface, as far apart as you can get from the West Country's imaginary 'Pagford'. If you scratch the surface, there is an undeniable similarity between the two entirely contrasting universes. The amount of thought and detail that has gone into planning Pagford and its inhabitants is by no means any less impressive than the depths of exploration that Rowling took into the wizarding world.

But that is enough of the comparisons. The Casual Vacancy is a novel in its own right, in a different genre with a different target audience to any of her previously published work.

For anybody who dislikes to read bad language, or is uncomfortable with topics such as sex, alcohol, drugs, violence, death, depression and abuse; perhaps take a step back and find something a little more cheerful to read. This book leaves little to the imagination. The gritty realities of life are laid bare for all to see. It is essentially a book about the vast glossary of characters inhabiting the pages. Two things cleverly set this story apart from similar British novels with overlapping characters and plot lines. Firstly, only real literary talent can produce such intricately well developed personalities for their characters, and interwoven connections between them. Secondly, this is not a one sided story of good versus evil. You have to think hard about which combinations of morality and imperfections is the least disagreeable, and who's indiscretions can be overlooked due to uncomfortable back-stories.

Rowling writes incredibly well when in the familiar and comfortable territory of teenage life. Her insight into the grown ups of the story is not something to be criticised; she simply has a more natural affinity towards coming of age scenarios.

All in all, Jo has been successful in what she set out to achieve with this book. It shows skill in writing black comedy as well as very 'muggle' desperation, where no magical cure can save the day. The Casual Vacancy is well written in most places, and whilst unlikely to attract the same level of popularity as her previous publications, is worthy of recognition as a great book.
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