The Casual Vacancy Book Club discussion

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Reviews of The Casual Vacancy (SPOILER ALERT)

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message 1: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Before the start date of the book discussion, I'd like to see comments on reviews of the book by people who bought the ebook version, particularly of reviews from the UK which may not show up on a US Google search. No Spoilers please, except those quoted from reviews that need disputing.


message 2: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments As with the Harry Potter books, no advanced review copies were sent out by the publishers, so the reviews of The Casual Vacancy will probably not appear until several days after the publication date of September 27.

I, and anyone else who chooses to, will post them here as I find them and hope people will find some things in them that are debatable.

What a lousy marketing strategy! With no advanced reviews how can the author possibly expect to have any pre-orders at all. [wink-wink] [nudge-nudge]

Burke

P.S. As of Sept 11 online pre-orders alone for The Casual Vacancy are in excess of 2,000,000.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Siriusly? Wowza.


message 4: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments CRAPPY COMMENTS ON CV AND JKR BY BRIT PUBLICATION
THE TELEGRAPH

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Comments by Sameer Rahim,
Assistant Books Editor

12:00PM BST 13 Apr 2012


While her millions of fans are no doubt doing cartwheels in anticipation of JK Rowling’s new book for adults, the rest of us can be forgiven for holding back our enthusiasm. It’s not that The Casual Vacancy – according to her publisher a “blackly comic” novel about small-town ructions in the fictional Pagford – will necessarily be bad. In fact – though I haven’t of course seen a word of it: the publishers would probably shoot me if I had – I imagine it’ll be as similarly well done and as well meaning as Harry Potter. What I find depressing, though, is the amount of attention the Rowling juggernaut will get – attention disproportionate to the quality of her work.

I’m on dangerous territory here, I know, because an awful lot of people like Rowling’s work. Not just like, in fact: many are obsessed fans – as opposed to disinterested readers – and will rain down abuse on anyone who doesn’t toe the Potter party line. (I’ve found the children simply love the books while the adults get defensive.) So let me say that I’ve read the first three Potters and quite enjoyed them. Wholesome, decently paced and occasionally dark; you can easily while away a rainy hour or two in their company. What they lack is any feel for language, character and – crucially for a children’s book – the unexpected weirdness you find in, say, Alice in Wonderland.

I’ve always thought that Lewis Carroll and JK Rowling were each other's polar opposites in children’s writing. The Alice books are riddling, disturbing, unexpected and memorable with a relish for language that means you can still recite whole passages from memory years after reading them. Rowling’s magic is logical and plodding (much like her prose: can anyone honestly say they can quote one line?) and the pleasure her stories give is similar to putting together a jigsaw that eventually forms a clear picture. Even her concluding plotline in the Potter books about searching for Voldermort’s Horcruxes follows this pattern.

But if children like reading this stuff then that can’t be all bad? True: but Rowling sucks all the energy out of other equally good but less straightforward writers. It depresses me to see 16 and 17 year-olds reading the series when they could be reading the great novels of childhood such as Oliver Twist or A House for Mr Biswas. What that says about the adults who are fanatical fans I’m not sure – but I suspect in years to come people will make a link between our plump, comfortable, infantilising society and the popularity of Potter.

Rowling's union with Warner Brothers and those epic, dreary films have made her less the friend of the lonely child than the bane of the parent forced to cough up for cinema tickets, DVDs, lunchboxes and the rest. In short Rowling has turned herself into a brand and her triumph – like the X Factor – is one of marketing over quality. So this year forget Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies or whoever wins the Man Booker Prize. According to Jon Howells from Waterstones, The Casual Vacancy will probably be “the bestselling fiction title this year”.

----------------------------------------------------


I certainly hope detractor natters like this one don't cause our poor Jo, like Liberace, to cry all the way to the bank.



Burke
Obsessed Fan


message 5: by L (new)

L It looks like i will just have to wait to find out, as i can't buy the book at present. However i am most interested in finding out others thoughts on it and what people think.
It will be hard for JK as she is getting so much attention with a work of fiction that is entirely different to Harry Potter, and which would probably recieve better reviews if not judged as a comparison with her other work but rather by its own merit.


message 6: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine (greenejasminegmailcom) | 2 comments hi


message 7: by AndPeggy (new)

AndPeggy | 1 comments I think JKR is a great mystery writer and can not wait for the book. Though I might be better off waiting for reviews to come out so my expectations are dampened.

As for the article linked above, I am a bit confused as to how the author can admit that JKR builds suspenseful, intertwining, well-connected and complex plots and say that leads to docility more so than reading simple straight-forward stories. All of the darker themes present in Oliver Twist are present in Harry Potter (with the exception of the people receiving the worst treatment being nonhuman) and it is more of a complex and compelling read than Oliver Twist and lacks the clear black/white morality. Perhaps they should have finished the series.


message 8: by Fran (new)

Fran (narflet) | 5 comments There's a nice piece in the Guardian today from someone whose actually read the book, but not just about the book: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/...


Although the comments section is full of hatred for some reason.


message 9: by Tej (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) That is a lovely piece, Fran, and JK looks extremley relaxed in the interview.

The fact that she has 2-3 books near completion on her laptop is quite exciting to hear. I hope she has good data backup contingency with her work :)

Also the interviewer gives a hint that she loved the book and told Rowling so.

Anyway, it doesnt matter what the reviews say, its what we think that matters. I never read reviews in detail before the reading a book or watching a movie but I do like to hear the summaries and general concensus.

I got my book pre-ordered for half price from a large bookstore chain in UK but I do feel bad for the poor smaller bookshops who cannot compete in price. I do wish I could buy from them but the price difference is too wide.


message 10: by Fran (new)

Fran (narflet) | 5 comments I'm the same. I usually read a book because of a friends recommendation, because I like another book by the same author, or because it just sounded interesting - then I read the reviews afterwards.

I found it really interesting too that there other books in the pipeline.


message 11: by Despair (new)

Despair Speaking (DespairSpeaking) | 2 comments I can understand this editor actually. Harry Potter IS very different from Alice in W Land. But I think what makes HP really endearing is the fact that it brought to life one of the greatest fantasies of a child: of being able to go to a boarding school where you're guaranteed to have the fun of your life and be with your friends. And what better way can this fantasy be reenacted by through a magical boarding school? Add to the fact that children love adventures and heroes and their desire to be "important" and it's kind of obvious HP would be very popular.


message 12: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Fran wrote: "There's a nice piece in the Guardian today from someone whose actually read the book, but not just about the book: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/...


Hi Fran,

That's a really great article about both CV and Jo Rowling. I so much enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much for posting the link.

I just loved the quote of JKR saying;

"I just don't think I was very good at being young"



Ah! Just as I suspected. She's a kindred spirit.

Burke



message 13: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine (greenejasminegmailcom) | 2 comments i am wondering what you guys talk about LIKE BOOK WISE. I love to read j.k. rowling books they are awesome an i can not wait till the new book comes out so i can get the book


message 14: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Denise wrote: "I think JKR is a great mystery writer and can not wait for the book. Though I might be better off waiting for reviews to come out so my expectations are dampened.

As for the article linked above, ..."


I'm not a big fan at all of Oliver Twist. The characterizations are sketchy -- even Fagan and The Artful Dodger -- which is rare for Dickins. Loved the movie though.

I much prefer Nicholas Nickleby, which is great fun and definitely needs a reread sometime soon.

Burke


message 15: by Marie (new)

Marie Staight (mstaight) | 16 comments Yes Potter books are different than Alice, but look closely and you will find all sorts of Alice references in Harry Potter, i.e. the Mirror of Erised, Slughorn (who is a walrus if I ever saw one) and Umbridge an 'off-with-their-heads' headmistress. My favorite by far is the reference to Carroll's 'The Raven and the Desk' question in Chapter 18 of the fifth book. Those who only surface read JKR's books miss a whole lot! Got to peel those layers back!


message 16: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Mstaight wrote: "Yes Potter books are different than Alice, but look closely ...

Those who only surface read JKR's books miss a whole lot! Got to peel those layers back!


B*I*N*G*O ! ! ! ! !

Burke



message 17: by Luke (new)

Luke | 10 comments If I read the review right in the beginning the critic thinks the Harry Potter books are lesser books than Alice or Oliver Twist because they are more approachable, readable, and marketable. I must have missed something.


message 18: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Luke wrote: "If I read the review right in the beginning the critic thinks the Harry Potter books are lesser books than Alice or Oliver Twist because they are more approachable, readable, and marketable. I mus..."

I think the guy is trying to say if you sell millions and millions of books you are obviously a PopPrincess Author and about as significant as Lindsey Lohan. He deserves to be bitten by Cedric's alter ego.

Burke


message 19: by Luke (new)

Luke | 10 comments I know certain books, t.v. shows, and movies are hyped just to be hyped but sometimes its popular because it is good. The Beatles were popular when they came out and still are because they remain relevant. I believe Harry Potter will stand the test of time.


message 20: by Becca (new)

Becca (harrypotterfreak13) All I have to say about the above article is: just because we read Harry Potter obsessively doesn't mean we don't also read Dicken's novels and love them as well. I for one love his work and even read it in my spare time.


message 22: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Amanda wrote: "http://m.newyorker.com/reporting/2012..."

Hi Amanda,

This is a really GREAT 10 page spread on J.K.Rowling. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much for the link.

Burke


message 23: by Marie (new)

Marie Staight (mstaight) | 16 comments I read that article too and thought is was very good. It does have quite a few spoilers in it, for those who don't want to know too much about the book.


message 24: by Luke (new)

Luke | 10 comments Great article from New Yorker. I didn't know much of her backstory other than she was a poor single mother before she wrote her first book. I love the advice that her friend texted her before the Olympics. The article made me more excited for the book and prepared for what would be in it.


message 25: by Uddipta (new)

Uddipta | 3 comments Hi Amanda. Thanks for sharing the nice article. Really liked it.
Here's a link to one TED video where J.K. Rowling talks a little about her past. Its the speech she gave in Harvard--
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/jk_r...


message 26: by Donna (new)

Donna (donnawfs) | 2 comments Ah, I was about to post a link to the New Yorker article, but obviously there's no need. I thought it was a very interesting piece about JKR, her history, with some tidbits about TCV. Sounds good! *one more day


message 27: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Hi Amanda,

What a remarkable address! Thanks for the link.

Burke


message 28: by John (new)

John Woodward (jrwoodward) | 6 comments I pre-ordered the ebook. I'll get it at "midnight." But which midnight? London or New York? I live in Florida; I'm on EST.
I'll read it when I get, I suppose.


message 29: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments John wrote: "I pre-ordered the ebook. I'll get it at "midnight." But which midnight? London or New York? I live in Florida; I'm on EST.
I'll read it when I get, I suppose."


Dear John,

I'm expecting to get my Kindle copy at 12am EST from Amazon on the 27th since I got my copy of The Deathly Hallows at Borders at 12am EST on its publication date. Hope I'm not disappointed.


message 30: by John (new)

John Woodward (jrwoodward) | 6 comments I miss Borders SO MUCH. So much . . .


message 31: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments John wrote: "I miss Borders SO MUCH. So much . . . "

Me too.


message 32: by Julia (new)

Julia (jbachmann) | 3 comments Oh Burke, why the negativity. Why can't we love adult prize winning novels AND Harry Potter? It doesn't seem to bother Salman Rushdie. He loves the Potter books!


message 33: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Julia wrote: "Oh Burke, why the negativity. Why can't we love adult prize winning novels AND Harry Potter? It doesn't seem to bother Salman Rushdie. He loves the Potter books!"


Oh dear, Julia.

I'm not sure which natter you are referring to, because I couldn't agree more with what you say above.

Maybe, the one about Oliver Twist? Well, I just reread it about four months ago and was underwhelmed. Even more so by the Old Curiosity Shop, which I had never read. As always, with Dickens, the social conscientiousness issues were masterfully handled, but Little Nell???? What a WUSS!! One of my favorites is Bleak House, which is not one of his most famous books.

Burke


message 34: by Julia (new)

Julia (jbachmann) | 3 comments Burke, my apologies! I was multi-tasking and misread one of your posts!!!


message 35: by Ashlet (new)

Ashlet | 1 comments Despair wrote: "I can understand this editor actually. Harry Potter IS very different from Alice in W Land. But I think what makes HP really endearing is the fact that it brought to life one of the greatest fantas..."

I agree with u Desp.


message 36: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Julia wrote: "Burke, my apologies! I was multi-tasking and misread one of your posts!!!"

No problem at all, Julia. Many of my comments on practically anything are highly debatable :) :) :)

Burke


message 37: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments Burke wrote: "John wrote: "I miss Borders SO MUCH. So much . . . "

Me too."


Do you remember the days of yore when EVERY mall had both a Waldenbooks and a Dalton? Now . . .


message 38: by Suellen (new)

Suellen Alcantara (suellensusan) Burke wrote: "CRAPPY COMMENTS ON CV AND JKR BY BRIT PUBLICATION
THE TELEGRAPH

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Comments by Sameer Rahim,
Assistant Books Editor

12:00PM BST 13 Apr 2012


While her millions of fans ..."


Oh my Jeebus, this made me laugh so much...


message 39: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 5 comments https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...

Interesting to hear Jo describe The Casual Vacancy as "trollopy" (4:31)


message 41: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 26, 2012 01:14AM) (new)

J.K. Rowling's debut adult novel worth the read
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/a...

"The Casual Vacancy" is scheduled to come out Thursday and has been held under tight control, with media outlets required to sign non-disclosure agreements before being permitted to see the book. The Associated Press declined to sign such an agreement and instead purchased a copy early.

READ MORE - http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/a...


message 42: by Jason (new)

Jason Wait, how did the AP purchase a copy early? Is it like a bootleg copy? How odd.


message 43: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 26, 2012 01:31AM) (new)

Jason wrote: "Wait, how did the AP purchase a copy early? Is it like a bootleg copy? How odd."

http://www.hypable.com/2012/09/24/cas...

The book has already begun surfacing in areas of the United States, as we’ve obtained photos of it in the wild in what can only be described as an accidental Casual Vacancy leak.

it looks slightly larger than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets‘ U.S. edition.

The worldwide onsale time is technically 8 AM GMT/3 AM ET/12 AM PT on that day — unless, of course, you happen to find it somewhere else early.


message 44: by Jason (new)

Jason Ah. NY Daily News, negative:
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainm...
It’s just dull...not one of them is interesting or even particularly likeable...she hasn’t much new to add...Rowling’s strength was never her prose...The magic simply isn’t there.”


message 45: by Tej (last edited Sep 26, 2012 04:30AM) (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) Rowling book event at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre in London is streaming live at 7:30pm (GMT), Thursday

http://ht.ly/dYu4x

Also, for us folks in UK, The Culture Show has a special edition on BBC tonight at 10pm.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01n3jd2


message 46: by Tej (last edited Sep 26, 2012 05:40AM) (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) Not sure if you guys in the US are able to play videos on UK's BBC website but here is a link to a BBC interview this morning.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainme...

In all of these interviews, as usual, she is realistic, honest, and hopeful but I also detect a little apprehension from her in whats to come. She has never done these sort of bite size interviews before with any of the previous Harry Potter books. And we all know she hates interviews and was very selective in the past but its clear to me, that her puplishers are advising her to do these round robin interviews as this new book needs more marketing push for the non HP/Rowling fans and doubters. It will work for her as I think doubters may soften up and buy her book and just give it a go.

I love YA Fiction, sci fi, horrors and thrillers. I would never have read a book of this nature, so I have to Jo to thank for at least getting getting me to diversify in my reading literature, whether it will appeal to me or not after I've read it, doesnt matter, at least I tried it.

Its important that we Jo fans should lower our expectations for the new book and just give her our support for her to diverse as much as she wants to and to keep developing as a writer. It doesnt stop us from being excited though, so close to release date :)


message 47: by Burke (new)

Burke Hodgson | 150 comments From Google review

It's set in the small British village of Pagford, and tells the story of what happens after the unexpected death of a town official leaves a vacancy on the town's governing body. A long-simmering conflict over what the solidly middle-class village should do about the residents of a poverty-stricken, drug- and crime-infested housing project on the edge of town gets heated, interwoven with the personal lives and problems of Rowling's characters.

This isn't a book that's easy to fall in love with, the way Harry Potter was with its charming, winning hero and his plucky friends, saving the world from evil with the help of a powerful spell or two.

Even with its moments of humor, it's a hard story where some people just don't get saved, because really, they never had a chance. It's filled with often unlikeable people, some of whom cross the line into terrible. They're all unhappy in one way or another, even if the only people who know that are themselves, if that. They can be judgmental, mean, petty and violent. Some are damaged beyond repair. Even the deceased official, in some ways the most positive, moral force in the story, is shown to have hurt his wife with his dedication to his cause that clearly came at her emotional expense.

But what could have been an unreadable story becomes something else in Rowling's hands, thanks to her gift of being able to make her characters complex and really, just human.

Readers know these people. They're familiar, with their moments of lashing out in anger or hoping against hope that this time things will be different. They're people the reader feels something for, even it's just pity, because they're struggling, because life can be hard and sometimes there just aren't any breaks, because even people who look like nothing but trouble can do something good. A number of her characters are teenagers, trying to figure out their places in the world, with all the emotional peaks and valleys that can bring.

That ability to bring her characters to their emotional life was a hallmark of the Harry Potter series — it didn't become a global phenomenon just because it was an exciting adventure, but because there was a real heart to it, characters who had both strengths and weaknesses, who struggled with their choices.

That's what makes this book worth it, despite a slow start and sometimes too much of the descriptions and adjectives that added life to Harry Potter but at times tend to bog Rowling down here. That's what makes the book's ending scenes so heartbreaking — turning the page seems unbearable, but not as much as putting down the book would be.


READ MORE - http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/a...


message 48: by Tej (last edited Sep 26, 2012 08:59AM) (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) Another review here (im not reading any thought!):

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/...

All of these reviews have had leaked early couples and are actually breaking the embargo of publiching them.

The google one has actually taken their one down.


message 49: by Tej (last edited Sep 26, 2012 02:15PM) (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) Started to watch the Culture show special but stopped as I realised its going into a lot of the story of Casual Vacancy. Recording it though and will watch after I finish the book.

Prepare yourselves for a VERY ADULT Rowling book, guys ;)

I am seeing more why Rowling is apprehensive, her new book is going to be a shock to coming of age Harry Potter fans. But from these interviews, I see that she needed this book to get a lot of bottled up thoughts out of her system. After this book, I hope she feels the writer's freedom she desperateley wants without the shackles of the "Harry Potter" stamp.

Guess we'll see what those thoughts are tomorrow :)

Thanks for creating the thread Burke, I was wanting to know if the mods would want us to create new threads as I really felt we should be discussing pre-release.


message 50: by Tej (new)

Tej (theycallmemrglass) Reviews rolling in now: I'm trying not to read them but I cant help spot key words. Seriously guys, Rowling is unleashing a very very dark side and its not looking like a comfortable read, so embrace yourself. I would never read a book of this perception I'm getting of it but for the sake of supporting JK's diversifying and development, I will brave it!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/bo...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/...


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