About me
About me

Review: The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

This book was a very pleasant surprise. I’d read reviews suggesting that this was “no children’s book”, and celebrating the swearing, and I expected some sort of horrendous easy-read chick-lit fantastical romp about caricatures taking wholly unrealistic actions to propel along a slightly crazy plot, with little touches of romance and the odd edgy sex scene shoehorned in to prove it wasn’t for kids.

The Casual Vacancy couldn’t have been further from that. It’s a proper state-of-the-nation epic, deconstructing the casual immorality of the middle-classes with genuine insight, razor-sharp wit, and an unshakable moral compass. Lesser authors make such points by viewing society as an outsider, or transplanting it to somewhere else. Rowling’s precise characterisations allow her to deliver a devastating socialist demolition of conservative small-town parochialism through simple storytelling dashed with black comedy. I don’t think it’s going too far to suggest that her approach is Dickensian, and there’s no question that its successful. I recently said that I was unmoved by One Day: that certainly isn’t true of The Casual Vacancy.

This isn’t a novel that’s thick with plot: it’s a ruminative characterisation novel. The plot, which is mainly driven by the younger characters, functions primarily to reveal more about the characters, especially the adults, through their reactions to events. In that sense, the structure is quite old-fashioned, written in the style that most books used to use before everything became short-chaptered plot-driven romps that make for simple scene-by-scene transitions to cinema. This has led to some criticism from those who expect something plot-driven from the Harry Potter author, but I found it both refreshing and brilliant. The authorship is something of a problem for this novel: I suspect it suffers poor reviews because people want Harry Potter 2, and this novel is simply not comparable. It is quite clearly aimed at a totally different audience.

A lot of reviewers have complained of difficulty keeping track of all of the characters in the novel. I can honestly say that I never found it a problem. Again, I wonder if that’s due to the recent proliferation of filmic novels withs casts of four or five making people unused to tracking wider ensembles. Or perhaps I’m just sympathetic to the novel because I loved it.

All things considered, it’s funny, it’s moving, it’s incisive, and it comes wholeheartedly recommended by me.

The Casual Vacancy is available now from amazon.co.uk in hardback and on Kindle.

This 1,879th post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

More posts worth reading

What I’ve been reading this month (published 3rd September 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 5th August 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 10th July 2017)

Free Wigs (published 13th May 2004)

Swing Update (published 12th April 2005)

‘No glass ceilings’ on poll ambitions, says Kennedy (published 5th March 2005)

The trouble with Pat (published 9th March 2006)

Comments and responses

No comments or responses to this article have been published yet.

Compose a new comment


You may use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> .

If you would like to display a profile picture beside your comment, sign up for Gravatar, and enter your email address above.

By submitting your comment, you confirm that it conforms to the site's comment policy. Comments are subject to both automatic and human moderation, and may take some time to appear.

The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. This site uses cookies - click here for more information.