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The Casual Vacancy Hardcover – Sep 27 2012
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Praise for THE CASUAL VACANCY:
"I had come under the spell of a great novel....A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence....This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply."―Lev Grossman, Time
"A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight."―People
"This book represents a truckload of shrewdness.... There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully....genuinely moving."―Washington Post
"A positively propulsive read."―Wall Street Journal
"An insanely compelling page-turner....The Casual Vacancy is a comedy, but a comedy of the blackest sort, etched with acid and drawn with pitch....Rowling proves ever dexterous at launching multiple plot lines that roar along simultaneously, never entangling them except when she means to. She did not become the world's bestselling author by accident. She knows down in her bones how to make you keep turning the pages."―The Daily Beast
"There are plenty of pleasures to be had in The Casual Vacancy....Parts of the story would be tonally of a piece with any Richard Price or Dennis Lehane novel, or an episode of The Wire."―Parade
"Rowling knows how to write a twisty, involving plot....She is clearly a skilled writer."―The Huffington Post
"The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read....a stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today."―The Mirror (UK)
"Rowling has written a grand novel...a very brave book."―The Bookseller (UK)
"A study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot...The Casual Vacancy immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world...intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny."―The Guardian (UK)
"The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling's first adult novel, is sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed....Jane Austen herself would admire the way [Rowling] shows the news of Barry's death spreading like a virus round Pagford."―Telegraph (UK)
About the Author
J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, translated into 74 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. She has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry’s schoolbooks within the novels. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published by Scholastic Bloomsbury Children’s Books in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group, and quickly became the fastest selling book of the year.
As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.
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Top customer reviews
The Casual Vacancy goes far beyond this, and leaves the reader pondering over the many issues it raises about a community's responsibilities towards its members. In a deft and elegant hand, Ms Rowling captures magnificently the lonely marriages, the exhausting efforts of educational and social service workers as they try to make a difference, the eternal divide between the haves and the have-nots, the teenage louts who, because of their own unhappy experiences, pass on the cycle of violence to their vulnerable peers, though they are still insecure children themselves. It also vividly and accurately describes the despair of multiple generations of families living in the inescapable prison of poverty, drug culture, learned helplessness, and a future without hope.
The author should be congratulated for her insight and excellent writing, and for being brave enough to attempt a completely different genre. I look forward to future publications.
Real talk: Casual Vacancy is not for everyone. It very much reads like JK Rowling re-introducing herself to the world, as more than just the Harry Potter lady. The opinions she presents, the subjects she highlights and dismisses, the characters she builds, feel motivated by a very personal desire to round herself out in the eyes of her public. And I love it and agree with it and am amazed that an author could write such an uncompromising story with such skill. But it's very long. And it's not always clear where things are going. And, in places, it describes things that can be difficult to read also. My only advice is, if you're going to dive in, give it as much of your patience as you can spare.
In terms of criticisms, I'd say the only one I have now (aka: having made it through to the pay-out; I would've had far more complaints before!) is that I wish she'd made her story more accessible to people who may not have particularly open minds. Or, to put things differently, might have forgotten their humanity. Her characters and the situations in which they find themselves are all so true to life that I feel they could really make a difference, in bridging the biased gap that a lot of people use to distance themselves from less-than-pleasant realities.
Overall: This book feels strong and true and nuanced in realities; it reads like something J K Rowling finally managed to get off her chest. A solid success, which handily took itself from 2 stars to a full 5.
As has been said before this is very different in many ways from Harry Potter. However, the later HP books were darker and dealt with people's prejudices, festering emotional baggage, jealousies, abuse etc and all the novels share JKRs extreme attention to details so that I could really see the characters and the town so clearly as she cleverly describes through the eyes of the other characters. The themes in this novel can be seen in Harry Potter, depression, dominance, betrayal, homosexuality, anarchy, they simply are not so much at the fore.
This is a further iteration of the English village novel, however, it is not the usual bustling celebration but more the cracks that lay ugly and seeping below the beautiful chocolate box like veneer. The complacency, hypocrisy , selfishness, narrow-mindedness, ignorance, prejudice, abuse, double standards, ignorance and sheer unpleasantness of the great majority of the inhabitants of Pagford,nr Bristol, is a constant challenge to your senses. I found the story to be somewhat of a large heavy boulder slowly rolling down the hill. It starts off with the death of Councillor Barry Fairbrother and we are shown how his death impacts on certain members of the town in less than flattering ways. It takes quite a long time to get into all the characters and what they are about but suddenly, about 100 pages in, you begin to see what is going on and the boulder moves along swiftly.
JKR brings forward some characters who are rarely encountered, and insists we notice them standing blinking in the spot light. Most notable is Krystal, school age daughter of a drug addict, resident of a 'sink estate' as other people in the village would term it, foul mouthed, sexually promiscuous, and the carer of her 3 year old brother. She is both brave and desperately in need of affection. She is so very vulnerable and sadly misjudged by most of the village. Her expectations and dreams are so small and basic hey alone shout at the reader to care and open their eyes to what goes on around them. Krystal is one of a range of teenage characters who JKR is able to present persuasively, as if from the inside. Others include Sukhinder, a self-harming Sikh girl, from the only Asian family in the village; Andrew whose crush on Gaia is brought to life with complete conviction and who brings back vivid memories for the non-teenage reader; Gaia herself, exiled from London by her single parent mother's move from Hackney, privileged by good looks and sense of coolness is enraged by her mother's unpleasant boyfriend and uprooting her at the age of 16; and 'Fats', whose lacerating wit covers his unhappy home and hatred of his father. The families that these young people live in are mercilessly exposed by JKR as nests of mutual dislike, infidelity, abuse, rape, backstabbing and cruelty. Spattered amongst these parents are more likeable and emphatic characters who help cement you there.
JKR shows through the characters treatment of each other both sympathy and often contempt. Rowling's authorial presence dominates the narrative, imposing moral judgement, left and right. The narrative deliver's punishment to the wicked and then to the innocent as is JKR's way... she does not shy from gritty subjects. Most of the characters descriptions come from other peoples' minds and can be rather unflattering at times but extremely vivid. These descriptions become layered throughout the book as more people describe the character.
By the end of the book I really did care, especially about the children for whom JKR has a special insight and for the 'Fields' folk, who are so completely p******d on by the comfortably off. Judged and abandoned they were getting by as best as they could, surviving being victims of victims. No one walks out of this novel unscathed but there are some surprises in there. As we saw people's malice spring up from jealousy, avarice, anger and fear of what others might think, I had to pull back and just observe ... letting all judgements go was necessary. The last chapters of the book were especially real to me as they were told through the eyes of one of the teenagers, we were led away from the facade of an adult ritual and into the truth of who Krystal really was, her essence and more importantly what she could have been if more Barry Fairbrothers were out there championing and believing in people. Krystal's expectations and dreams are so small and basic they alone shout at the reader to open their eyes.
There is a wellspring of compassion in this author that is welcome in the world of contemporary fiction. While JKR has joined the higher echelons of wealth, her attitude appears to have not been altered. She no longer has to write, a nd is brave to set out after Harry Potter to stake a new claim, although I felt this is a cathartic process for her at some level. I hope she does so again, as she has something to tell us and hopefully if even the smallest part of these adults resides within us we will recognise them and ask the to leave the building..
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3 Stars? 3.5 Stars? ...I'm undecided...The writing is superb but it's not my favorite book
The Casual Vacancy is a gritty unforgiving slice of...Read more
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