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The Casual Vacancy

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Goodreads Choice Award
Winner for Best Fiction (2012)

When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

503 pages, Hardcover

First published September 27, 2012

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About the author

J.K. Rowling

612 books223k followers
See also: Robert Galbraith
Although she writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling, pronounced like rolling, her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply Joanne Rowling. Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling. She calls herself Jo and has said, "No one ever called me 'Joanne' when I was young, unless they were angry." Following her marriage, she has sometimes used the name Joanne Murray when conducting personal business. During the Leveson Inquiry she gave evidence under the name of Joanne Kathleen Rowling. In a 2012 interview, Rowling noted that she no longer cared that people pronounced her name incorrectly.

Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling, a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer, and Anne Rowling (née Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Bristol. Her mother Anne was half-French and half-Scottish. Her parents first met on a train departing from King's Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964. They married on 14 March 1965. Her mother's maternal grandfather, Dugald Campbell, was born in Lamlash on the Isle of Arran. Her mother's paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during the First World War.

Rowling's sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael's Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More. Her headmaster at St Michael's, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would usually then read to her sister. She recalls that: "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee." At the age of nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales. When she was a young teenager, her great aunt, who Rowling said "taught classics and approved of a thirst for knowledge, even of a questionable kind," gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling's heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.

Rowling has said of her teenage years, in an interview with The New Yorker, "I wasn’t particularly happy. I think it’s a dreadful time of life." She had a difficult homelife; her mother was ill and she had a difficult relationship with her father (she is no longer on speaking terms with him). She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother had worked as a technician in the science department. Rowling said of her adolescence, "Hermione [a bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Steve Eddy, who taught Rowling English when she first arrived, remembers her as "not exceptional" but "one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English." Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32,400 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
April 4, 2023
J.K.Rowling gave a whole generation of kids an amazing fantasy to dream about (*).

Then she wrote this book that has many of the same elements, only without the safe haven of magic (**). Basically, this is a real world where a strange man showing up at your family's doorstep at night is less likely to be a magical school groundskeeper but more likely your family's drug dealer who, by the way, may not be adverse to beating and raping you for good measure.(***)

It's the world left for Dudley Dursley and friends after Harry gets whisked away to magicland, and it ain't pretty.
(*) I confess - I'm a Potter fan, too. Just look at my t-shirt in my profile picture. I would also redo medical school in a heartbeat if only Hogwarts offered a med school curriculum.

(**) Abusive family, closed-mindedness, thinly veiled prejudice, bullying and constant threats - all that is just the beginning of the first Potter book. Later we have iron-pumping Dudley hang out at deserted playgrounds, taking pride in physically abusing small children.

(***) A tasteless joke to follow - well, drugs may be one plausible explanation for all that followed for the Potter kid, including Harry's fantastic magicland TRIP. Hehe.
Okay, having got the Potter references and tasteless humor out of my system, I can start my actual review.
The Casual Vacancy is a book about the pettiness and selfishness and often quite unintentional cruelty of mundane human life, which does not have to be dramatic or poignant or in any other way remarkable to be tragic. It's not about any grand battle between good an evil, or any significant confrontations, or any remotely heroic feats - no, it is about how small little seemingly insignificant things can combine into a depressing picture of everyday tragedy.

'Dark and gritty' (the description that I've heard a few times about it) it also isn't - it's simply realistic and does not shy away from life's unpleasantness. This is a book that is never about the destination () but about the journey, cliché as it may sound.

What the town of Pagford would really like to be seen as.

The Casual Vacancy is a book about a seemingly quaint English town of Pagford which, to the dismay of many well-meaning citizens, has a less than desirable area known as the Fields (you know, one of those neighborhoods filled with drugs, drugs users, drug dealers, and terrifying poverty. And kids from there who go to the respectable town school, and some of whom grow up to be respectable, and some of whom punch other girls' teeth out. That kind of neighborhood).

What the rest of Padford sees the neighborhood of the Fields as.

So the well-meaning town officials are locked in the battle that involves either keeping the Fields or shuffling it off onto a neighboring town, and also whether to keep or to close a local methadone clinic. And when Barry, one of the town councillors, dies because of an unfortunately timed brain aneurysm, leaving a town council seat unoccupied, the real ugly of small town politics rears its head.

Add to the mix surly teenagers, drugs, sex, casual rape, bullying, domestic violence, lies, cheating, indifference, prejudice, self-mutilation, neglect, verbal abuse, desperation, almost-murder - and you have some idea of what The Casual Vacancy is about. And none of it is even remotely magical.

What I like most about this novel is that it's basically a character study. There's not that much plot, little action of any kind, and - *spoiler* - not that much resolution of existing conflicts by the end of the book. It is really just a sketch of a bit of small-town English society, quite nicely done. But hey - if character studies are not your cup of Earl Grey, you will definitely doze off over the 500-plus pages of this novel. Luckily for me, this is a genre I enjoy.
"Life, for Colin, was one long brace against pain and disappointment, and everybody apart from his wife was an enemy until they had proven otherwise."
We get to see the life in Pagford from the point of view of quite a few of its inhabitants. Normally I'd find that distracting, but here it's served its purpose - making every character grey, nobody black-and-white. Those who seemed destined to be 'the bad guys' in the first few chapters are not; they are very regular everyday people with regular flaws and charms, whose views are presented such that you see both flaws and reason in them. Those who seemed destined to be 'good guys', similarly, are not (see above). Everyone is just an ordinary person, both likable and unlikable at the same time, and instantly recognizable as a 'real' person.
"He tried to give his wife pleasure in little ways, because he had come to realize, after nearly two decades together, how often he disappointed her in the big things. It was never intentional. They simply had very different notions of what ought to take up most space in life."
Actually - and it must be my old age speaking - the person who I found to be the most antagonistic was a confused teenager searching for 'authenticity' with the utmost boneheadedness, I must add. Get off my lawn, I scream, get off my lawn! Everyone else, whether antagonistic or repulsive, felt firmly set on their unremarkable chosen road; Fats, on the other hand, was caught in a spiral of finding himself while quite deliberately hurting people around him, and I found it to be one of the most painful parts of the book.

Authenticity, as Fats Wall, a middle-class suburban teenager, sees it.
J.K.Rowling is definitely NOT a one-hugely-popular-series wonder. No, this woman can definitely write very well (and with properly placed punctuation!) Her prose is well-chosen, simple, and very non-distracting. As a writer, she never demands attention, never jumps out with a writing gimmick, never over-emphasizes her cleverness; she instead tells her story in an even and well-modulated voice, occasionally full of sadness, occasionally humorous but never overwhelming.
"‘Stone dead,’ said Howard, as though there were degrees of deadness, and the kind that Barry Fairbrother had contracted was particularly sordid."
All in all, I thought it was a very well-executed and interesting book which will undoubtedly appeal to a much smaller audience than the Potter series, but among the ones that love it, this love will be well-deserved. I will be gladly waiting for anything else that Rowling chooses to write - and not only because I love Harry the wizard but because I'm sure now that she is a damn fine writer. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Krys.
746 reviews170 followers
February 3, 2015

The Casual Vacancy = Mind Blowing.

There is a quote in J.K. Rowling's newly released book, The Casual Vacancy, that sums up the tone of this novel perfectly.

"The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, was being ashamed of what they were, lying about it, trying to be somebody else. Honesty was Fats' currency, his weapon and defense. It frightened people when you were honest; it shocked them. Other people, Fats had discovered, were mired in embarrassment and pretense, terrified that their truths might leak out, but Fats was attracted by rawness, by everything that was ugly but honest, by the dirty things about which the likes of his father felt humiliated and disgusted. Fats thought a lot about messiahs and pariahs; about men labeled mad or criminal; noble misfits shunned by the sleepy masses."

Rowling's departure from the world of children's fantasy takes us in an entirely different direction - truth. This book focuses on the truths that exist between people in a community and, more importantly, the lies that tear them apart.

The book starts with the death of Barry Fairbrother, a parish council member and much loved bloke about town. This leaves behind a casual vacancy - a much-sought-after spot on the town council. Barry's death shakes the town of Pagford to the foundation from the council to teens on his rowing team. Everyone has been affected. After his death Barry becomes the most omnipresent, oft-spoken-of-but-never-seen dead character since Rebecca haunted Manderley. Barry is a cause and a catalyst for everything that happens in this book.

This book has been much maligned in reviews. I have read a number that decry it as boring, laughable, and a waste of time. This made the defiant part of me rise up - everyone hates it, so I have to like it. Strike that, I have to love it. For the record it's not a waste of time. Not one second. I have spent the last week reading it and I feel nothing but pleasure, and aching, gut-wrenching sorrow in tandem. To call this novel boring is a slap in Rowling's face. This novel is heartfelt and exciting. At first it's a heavily character driven romp, but then the story sweeps you off your feet and you just can't look away. Rowling touches on so many factors of the human condition within the pages. Emotions range from sorrow to laughter, passion to pain, and all of the spectra in between.

I'm not sure what book the readers who claim it was boring were reading but, trust me, this wasn't it.

My theory is that the people who gave up are the fans that she acquired who are not readers - those who read the books because they are "the in-thing" so they could talk about it with their peers. Their contempt for this book makes me think they are jaded, that they feel duped for buying this (or any) book when "It's not Harry Potter!".

It's really their loss for giving up. They're missing an otherwise perfect literary experience.

On that note, if you go in expecting Harry Potter you will be disappointed. I never thought I would say this but forget Harry Potter... Especially while reading this book. Harry Potter ended five years ago and since then Rowling has gifted us with this unexpectedly wonderful book. To bemoan the fact that it's not another book set in that world is a second slap in her face. Rowling is a writer. Was she not supposed to write another book after finishing THE series of her career? Absolutely not. If anything she has a hell of a lot to prove... and she proves her chops in The Casual Vacancy. Where else would you find jealousy, illegal drug usage, prostitution, teenage sex, LGBT relationships, parental abuse, neglect, cutting, hope, pedophilia, boy band obsession, social politics, power struggles, rape, fear, betrayal, unrequited love, (and more f-bombs than Sam Jackson drops in the average movie)... all together told in a beautiful language that makes the reader laugh, smile, and cry at unexpected turns? Sometimes within sentences of one another.

Sound boring? It's not. Like I said, I don't know what book they were reading. I was completely riveted. And I sobbed at the end. Another truth.

Sadly, there is no mention of magic, or Hogwarts, or wizards, witches, and house elves. It didn't need that - it has it's own unique brand of magic. It doesn't mention Muggles either, but it does delve heavily into their lives and the way they interact with one another.

I am very impressed by Rowling's first adult book. It's literary, it's rough, it's blisteringly poignant. I will miss every single character.

5 out of 5 stars. Brava, Rowling. You have made magic out of the extraordinary ordinary. Brava.

- review courtesy of www.bibliopunkkreads.com
Profile Image for Mith.
284 reviews978 followers
September 17, 2023
How (not) to read The Casual Vacancy :

1. DON'T read it just because it's written by JK Rowling.
2. DON'T expect it to be like Harry Potter - i.e, magic stuff.
3. DON'T expect a murder mystery - it isn't one.
4. DON'T read it if you are not comfortable with the fact that the woman who might have moulded your childhood, is writing about drugs, teen sex, prostitution, rape etc. - this book isn't for you.
5. DON'T compare this with her previous works, for the love of God!

When it was announced that Jo Rowling was coming out with a new book, comparisons with the Harry Potter series were inevitable. No matter how many times, and in how many interviews, Jo insisted over and over again that 'THIS IS NOT A HARRY POTTER BOOK NOR IS IT ANYTHING LIKE IT', a small part inside every fan, desperate for another book in the series (understandably), hoped for it anyway.

(And so, when they were invariably proved wrong, there was backlash. Half the negative reviews on Goodreads are because it's 'not a Harry Potter book', which just pisses me off, so let's not go there)

The Casual Vacancy is as steeped in reality as the Harry Potter books are removed from it. There's nothing fantastical about the story - it's simple and plain, told by holding nothing back.

The characterization in this book is simply mind-blowing. Each and every one of the characters is so very real (I know this word's been thrown around a lot, but seriously, there's no other way to describe them) and has such depth! Through the course of the book, they are all ripped apart, dissected with unflinching honesty and laid bare for the readers to see. There are very few likable characters in the book, whom we can root for and hope that things work out for them eventually, but all of them end up earning our sympathies in the end.

People have said that the characters in this book are not relatable at all. I disagree. Which one of us hasn't felt like a victim of the circumstances - hopeless, unloved, desperate, bullied, frustrated, at the end of our tether - at some point in our lives? We are all in the pages of this book. It's just that our stories are different. I think Jo has expertly managed to capture and show the best and the worst of human behaviour in the book; the worst being the inability to see beyond ourselves and our petty problems, while the best being our capability to change ourselves.

Having said that, the biggest strength of the book is also, unfortunately, its biggest weakness. The setting up of the characters and their lives just takes too long. The plot, if you can call it that, begins to move ahead only after about 300 pages or so. Which was probably the reason why it took me this long to finish the book - I was plodding along until I was so caught up that I couldn't put the book down.

The final few pages of the book were brilliant and typically Jo - sad, yet beautiful and touching at the same time. I don't understand why people say the ending was abrupt. For me, there was absolute and complete closure which left me smiling and feeling content long after I finished reading (Always a sign of a good book!).

I would like to reiterate that 'The Casual Vacancy' will not be for everybody. Some of you will probably give up after the first hundred pages, others will crawl along because it's Jo, and in the hope that she might pull a rabbit out of her hat at the end and surprise you with something "magic-ky" (she doesn't). Quite a few of you will hate it, but that's probably because this not your genre and you only picked up this book because of Jo, so, in that case, it's not her, it's you.

With this book, Jo has proved beyond a doubt that she can WRITE no matter what the genre is, that she still has that magical ability to tap into some part of us, connect with us and make us care, despite ourselves. However, unlike the Harry Potter books, this book will probably not be changing any lives any time soon (it certainly didn't change mine), but I'm glad to have read it, nonetheless.
Profile Image for Nina ♥.
94 reviews670 followers
Currently reading
August 21, 2013
Profile Image for Stephen King.
Author 2,527 books827k followers
January 31, 2014
Not since Peyton Place has a writer so enthusiastically stripped the lace covers from small-town life to show the maggots of greed, lust, snobbery, and ambition squirming beneath—only Grace Metalious didn’t have Jo Rowling’s wicked sense of humor. The village of Pagford may be British, but the human foibles there are universal. Like the best social comedies, The Casual Vacancy features wit on top and outrage simmering below.
Profile Image for Tomoe Hotaru.
249 reviews854 followers
September 9, 2016
28 Sept. '12
I have to start by saying, that if you're expecting a (murder-)mystery novel; a plot submerged in conspiracies and political maneuverings, you will be sorely disappointed. If you're hoping to be transported to another magical adventure, you'll receive an even greater plummet back down to earth.

Look. If you're going to read this just because it has JK Rowling's name splattered on there, I strongly advise you to sit back, take a look at your computer screen, and read that book description. Does it sound like something you would enjoy? Does it attract you, in the least bit, at all? Or does it sound utterly boring you would rather do something more productive like watch Desperate Housewives back-to-back?
The Casual Vacancy is everything the title and book cover promises it to be -- plain, straightforward, something so commonplace and ordinary that you wouldn't even notice it's there. This book doesn't try to impress anybody, I think looking at the drab red and white cover would tell you that much, but it will elicit some sort of reaction depending on how you interpret things.

The Casual Vacancy reminds me a lot of the Australian drama film, 2:37 . Not because the plot is in any way similar, but rather that they provoke the same general reaction out of their audiences. Some parts are gritty, vile, and just plain offensive.
I've heard a few friends, read a few reviews, that mentioned how Rowling just seemed to arbitrarily slop down a bunch of cuss-words and sex scenes simply to get it across to her readers that this is not Harry Potter, yo! but I could not disagree more.
I think we have it all in our heads that Rowling is somehow pressured into differentiating this adult book of hers from her popular children's series, that we're assuming too much of her. Although it does seem sometimes that she's playing a game of how many penis jokes can I slip into my adult-novel, the real and horrible fact is that in the real world out there, people do cuss -- some much, much more than others. Teenagers do have unabashed sex -- sometimes in public places, and there are horrible, violent, incompetent parents out there.
Truthfully, I quite enjoyed the way Rowling gave distinct voices to her characters . Some needed their mouths washed, some needed to grow a pair, some needed to be slapped across the face. It is a pity that her portrayal of real people is being watered down to her attempting to assure us this is an adult novel.

There is almost no theme that this book does not touch. There are unhappy marriages, failed relationships, dysfunctional families ... there are issues of depression and cutting, bullying, teenage delinquency -- in short, this is a book about life. This book is a drama. A slow-paced, character-driven drama ; an in-depth look, if you will, at the lives of multiple people. There is no main character in The Casual Vacancy. Instead, we look into the lives of a number of residents of Pagford, we make our own decisions on their personalities, which is one great strength of this novel, and we get to see reflections of our own society - perhaps our own selves - in the inhabitants of Pagford.

I have to admit, that contemporary fiction is not my genre. I find them dull, I find them boring, I find them - more often than not - shallow and poorly developed; poor, romanticized attempts of uncovering human nature and the world we live in.
But the way JK Rowling handled her characters is well-rounded and completely believable . I know only too well, the same type of gossiping, drama-mongering women who secretly crave to be in the limelight. I know only too well the hypocrisies and selfishness of people who do not even ever mean to be hurtful.
Perhaps, the main reason I got through this novel and enjoyed it, is because I simply find character studies fascinating - and that is, in large, what The Casual Vacancy is about. That said, I have no doubt that you will utterly loathe a majority - if not all - of these flawed, only too-real characters. It seems as if there was not a single inhabitant of Pagford with redeemable characteristics. And yet, you do get to sympathize with a few, every now and then.

The only character whose perspective we didn't get to really experience was perhaps the one who was most affected by Barry's death - his widow - whom, by the way other characters interact with her, I have come to despise. It may be a shock, but it isn't the physically abusive father who I hated the most, nor the good-for-nothing druggie mother -- it was Mary, Barry's useless, whinging, annoying widow.
Cut her some slack, I hear you say; her husband just died.
It's a good thing we never got to see into her head, because I'm sure I would have found more reason to hate her. Her entire sadness and mourning is based upon selfish, egotistical reasons. She has no respect for her husband's efforts, nor the selfless work he so evidently found important. She also just walks around moping, breaking down every two seconds, doing things and making decisions that her husband would have no doubt disproved of.

Anyway. The head-jumping may be daunting at first, and yes, some people will be highly turned off by this. I myself think that if it had been handled any other way, the continuous flow of the world would have been interrupted; like a sudden cut-to-black scene instead of a camera constantly filming events as they transpire, following one character from another as they pass each other by.
Also, Rowling sure likes her commas. But that is a minor detail, which I myself am often guilty of - so I don't find it too off-putting. I could complain that her sentences were often winding, multiple clauses abound, sometimes causing confusion and forcing re-reads - but that is the distinct style she so often uses, which is something I have come to enjoy; and once I got going, I almost didn't notice it.

But anyway. Enough about that. What about the actual story? Well, we begin with the death of Barry Potter Fairbrother.
**As a sidenote -- it might seem, if you read the novel, that he was the only redeemable character in this entire tale; and yet the entire purpose of The Casual Vacancy was to show us how rotten and imperfect people are once we get inside their head. It is only a blessing we never got to experience Barry's perspective, otherwise our enchantment of him, I suspect, would have been rudely awakened.**
Barry's death had an impact on the entire community of Pagford, for he had left an empty seat on the Parish council, and whoever takes his place may have a defining role on the future of a rehabilitation clinic and, by extension, the lives of people who depend on it.

And that is all there is to it, ladies and gentlemen. No mysterious murder plots, no sudden evil lord rising from the dead. Of course, we are entertained by the everyday dramas that you will find in such a small, close-knit society. There is sabotage, teenagers courting, MILFs on the prowl ... we have an abundance of little events that lead up to the final climax of The Casual Vacancy: some would say, an unnecessary scene that acts as a turning point for our characters.
But in that scene, like the entire premise of the movie 2:37, we are reminded of the brutal truth of life; of how selfish and self-absorbed people are. Of how immersed we are in our own petty problems and little closed world, that we become so ignorant and shrug off the rest of the world.

It is a pity that something bad had to take place before we see some semblance of change in our characters - although some characters do not change at all. And some readers, I believe, will find this to their distaste. But for me, this is a simple fact of life. Some people need mistakes to learn from. Some people never learn at all. And JK Rowling's beautiful, if brutal, portrayal of life; of actions and consequences; of people and society, would have been just another romanticized happily-ever-after if it had ended on any other note.

27 Sept. '12
Alriiiight! I finally have a copy of this so I'm gonna say "screw it" to all the other books I'm currently reading and get started on this like, right now. JK Rowling, bring it!

5 July '12

Is it just me, or don't you prefer JK Rowling's face as a cover?

I think we're part of some elaborate social psychology experiment. The hypothesis is that us suckers will buy any book written by such a long-anticipated author, even if it had a picture of dog turd on the cover.

14 June '12
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Not final cover art??? You mean, she won't have a picture of her own face as the front cover of her novel?? I am disappointed.

17 Apr. '12
Look. I know we all love J.K. Rowling to bits and tiny pieces she would just die in our smothering worship ... but this book is not even out yet. HOW does it already have practically 5 stars?? HOW? Do people have access to a hidden manuscript that I am not aware of? Have people traveled back from the beautiful future just to put up their stars before everyone else?

Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 10, 2020

Big bois. Long bois. Extra extra page bois.

Everyone's heard of them. The Libraries are full of them. But are they worth it?

Click the link for my video review of the big bois in my life.
The Written Review:Small town gossip, big town problems

By no exaggeration, the entire community hinged on Barry Fairbrother. He was the glue, the tape, the old piece of string.

And, they are left scrambling to hold things together when he unexpectedly passed.

Why? Because the entire idyllic town is festering over a cesspool of drugs, prostitution, self harm, rape, class divisions, abuse and sexism.

Told through ever changing narrators, we see just how Barry Fairbrother held their families - their community - together through his kindness and willingness to care.

And without him, the whole town begins to crumble. Will they pull everything together? Or will everything be lost forever?

Whoa. This one was intense - not at all what I expected from JK Rowling.

It was still good - just completely unexpected.

The characters were well fleshed out and the plot was absolutely riveting. It's a bit like watching a train wreck.

So many people, so many ways to uniquely ruin lives.

After learning all that Barry did, I'm surprised that his aneurysm hadn't come earlier.

The book did get to be a bit overwhelming - there's only so much I can take. About 3/4, the book got a bit overwhelming for me...

It ends on a semi-positive note, with a hint of a hope that things will get better - which felt fairly realistic.

I'm glad I read this one but I don't think I'll pick up a copy.

Just as a note, if you are looking for something with the harry potter vibe... this is not it.

The teens in this book are not idyllic or innocent. They are already well versed in abuse, neglect, drugs and sex, courtesy of their upbringing.

Audiobook Comments:
Tom Hollander did a pretty good job of distinguishing the characters through inflections and mannerisms. With such a large cast, I think there needed to be a bit more characterization to help tell them apart.

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Profile Image for Jon.
599 reviews627 followers
March 10, 2014
Find more of my controversial reviews at Scott Reads It

After rereading my review of The Casual Vacancy I realized it sounded sloppy and very unprofessional. I decided to edit my entire review and start from scratch.

I had such high expectations for The Casual Vacancy and I was extremely letdown. I'll admit that the only reason that I read this book is because I adore J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series. I was so excited to read a new J.K. Rowling book that I didn't care that The Casual Vacancy was nothing like her Harry Potter series. (That's not to say that I secretly wished that The Casual Vacancy was some sort of spin off or sequel to Harry Potter.)

Though J.K. Rowling's writing style is evident in The Casual Vacancy, nevertheless reading The Casual Vacancy felt like a form of torture. I lacked any emotional attachment or connection with the characters in The Casual Vacancy. The only emotions towards the characters in this book were repulsion and extreme distaste. The political structure of this book was portrayed in a manner that was unappealing and tedious.

I felt like The Casual Vacancy unnecessarily dirty and vulgar. I believe that J.K. Rowling was trying to differentiate from her children's books by adding rape, pedophilia, sex scenes, and adult content. How many times can you drop the f-bomb before it becomes irritating?

It is truly alarming how 5 star reviews I have seen that were written by people who have never even read The Casual Vacancy. It truly defeats the purpose of Goodreads to review and rate a book you have never even read.

I wish I had a better experience reading The Casual Vacancy. The Casual Vacancy was very dull and I struggled to read a few chapters. One day I hope I will attempt to finish The Casual Vacancy but for now I'm marking it as DNF.
Profile Image for Roohdaar.
165 reviews1,804 followers
Want to read
August 12, 2016
Listen, people. I'm not extremely excited for this book because it's not fantasy. And I don't mean Harry Potter's continuation. Please, as much as I loved HP, I don't need to read about his kids because I cannot get myself to give a damn. The end is the end. I can't see how she can continue that series.

Rowling has said that this book is completely different from what HP had given us. It's dark, dreary, a bit personal, and is solely for adults. And even though I love, love, love HP, I didn't preorder this book or went completely crazy about being the first to grab it. In fact, I won't mind spending a few months waiting to read it.

Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
Want to read
September 28, 2012

EDIT #2: I'll probably still give this a go out of curiosity. And because I do love our Queen J.K.

EDIT: I am extremely disappointed in that cover. *cringe* It screams "no effort." I was excited, but after reading the synopsis and seeing the cover, not so much.

Words can't express how excited I am about this book!

Oh, yeah and the Dark Lord approves too.

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Profile Image for Nilesh Kashyap.
22 reviews45 followers
March 5, 2013
6.11 A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred:
(a) when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or
(b) when his notice of resignation is received; or
(c) on the day of his death …
Charles Arnold-Baker
Local Council Administration,
Seventh Edition

Barry Fairbrother, local councillor of Pagford lay dead on the ground in pool of his own vomit. His death creates a situation called ' casual vacancy '. A lot of people of people are willing to fill Barry’s vacant seat on the parish council. Thus, begins the story of a small English town called, Pagford.
A part of Pagford is ‘the fields’, pretty fucked up place. Many members at the council never accepted the fields and its people as their own and now they want to separate that filthy place from their own Pagford. And now this task seems much easy than ever, since Barry is dead. Barry, who dedicated his entire life to make people realise that the fields has always been part of Pagford.

'The Rowling Experience'

This is the first time I have read a novel by J. K. Rowling. Yup! No Harry Potter for me. So unlike many fan of hers, I have no reason to measure the goodness of her other novels against the scale, based on Harry Potter novels.
I read this book for simply what it is, not because I have been missing Harry Potter or her writing. I don’t know, how good is she as a YA-fiction writer, but she is damn good as a writer of an adult and a realistic novel.
What I liked most about her writing is characterization, this novel is all about characters and each and every character is so well developed that you can connect with their thoughts and action, moreover you can recognize the characters from their dialogues without any reference to speaking person. Need I say more about her writing skills?

'The Casual Vacancy: As It Is'

Adults Only! For some reason when I heard that it’s going to be an adult novel, I conjured up an image of a mature book, with some deep embedded thoughts and thought provoking writing. Basically, mature.
Well, surprise! This is seriously an adult novel. Many reviewers say that Rowling has tried to make this adult by unnecessarily using all kind of dirty words. Word count of few such 'dirty words'
Arse: 5 times
Bloody: 61 times
Fuck (my favourite, and given the count looks like Rowling’s favourite too): 214 times
Shag: 13 times
Wank: 2 times
Shit (second favourite): 43 times

But the thing is that these words have very less or no contribution in making this an adult novel. Strip this novel of these words and it will still remain very much adult as it was before. It is the issues and situation that makes it what it is. And these words are not forced in any of the character’s mouth; they say it like they own it.
Moreover, whatever is being termed here as adult, is fucking reality of our society.

Things that other reviewers have said (mostly those who have read around 50–pages and therefore abandoned):
-crappy story of a town rocked by death of some Barry Fairbrother
-no likeable character
-simply not interesting; in other words, nothing like Harry Potter

The story of this book is not about Pagford and how it was affected by Barry’s death and definitely not about Barry. The death of Barry is just a pretext of starting a story.
For the first 50 pages only thing that happens is introduction of various families (characters) living in Pragford. These introduction are connected through passing message of Barry Fairbrother’s death. So in these pages what one will come across is that; Barry is dead. Rating the book at this point is like rating a YA-novel after 10-15 pages.

If you ask about the plot of the story, then I’m afraid I can’t tell you much because this is not an exactly plot driven story. Those who think of this book as such have complained in their review that ‘ending is abrupt’. Well, the ending is not abrupt, but my friend, you were holding the wrong thread of the story.
This is more like character-driven story, this is all about characters, as I told before. This story is about the people of Pagford, who have constructed themselves in all the wrong ways possible and this story make them realise this fact and gives them a once in a lifetime opportunity by destroying them, so that they can start all over again. When they restart, that is the end.

No likeable character. I disagree!
Well, there are many likeable and very very interesting characters, but if you meant that there is no protagonist, whom you can cling to throughout the story, then only I can agree.
Consider this as a story with no protagonist or many protagonists. I don’t consider anybody in this story as an antagonist because this is a politics based story and in politics everybody is right and everybody is wrong.

I agree that starting of the story is not at all interesting. Reason: there are many characters, actually too many and everyone is important, so this leads to lot of confusion and it takes time to settle this confusion. Every time a character give their following appearance, it is hard to remember whose son/wife/husband they are and whether they are anti-field or pro-field. But, once I got accustomed to characters, setting and their relation to everybody, this story flowed better than ever.

I liked Rowling's writing so much that I can say: Very much magical, even without magic.
Profile Image for Anachronist.
148 reviews76 followers
October 8, 2012

When Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly of aneurism in his early forties, leaving his family and a lot of unfinished issues behind, the town of Pagford is in shock. He was a well-known councilor and a coach of the local female rowing team. He was also a man with a mission. Who will fill his shoes? Will his death benefit his allies or his enemies?
Surprisingly there are more than one or two token candidates. Pagford, seemingly an English sleepy town like many others, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, becomes a war zone and, like in every war, there will be casualties. Who will prevail? Is it important at all?

My impressions:

First of all let me state the obvious: hearing the name of J.K. Rowling you will immediately think ‘Harry Potter’ even if you haven’t read any of the books or haven’t seen the movies. But HP series was finished some time ago and now Ms Rowling decided to branch out. I am far from criticizing her for that, let me just say it was a very bold move, rejecting a genre which made you famous, renowned and super-rich, trying something entirely new and different. I grant it, she could afford that little experiment without breaking out into a financial sweat, a rare luxury among authors. My question is rather why it was done the way it was done especially that it could have been done practically any way?

My first surprise: the new book was still published under the name of J.K. Rowling. Let’s face it – whether the author likes it or not that name belongs firmly to Harry Potter. Using it to market a contemporary fiction novel for adults is like trying to sell e.g. BMW shoes or Manolo Blahnik computers. Of course it has its short-term advantages: plenty of people have bought the book out of sheer curiosity or loyalty so I suppose the publisher and the author will make a nice, fat profit, no problem. Still most of those casual readers will be confused and disenchanted at best, getting not exactly what they have expected or used to expect. I suppose next time they won’t fall for the magic name alone.

The novel itself is a solid piece of writing, planned and executed decently well, but the topic isn’t either fresh or original, let alone ground-breaking. I am not an especially well-read person in English literature and even I have read many similar position by Kate Atkinson or Sue Townsend; I can even add Agatha Christie to the bunch here, and I must say their books were actually better – funnier, more edgy. Do not expect in The Casual Vacancy any magic, even of the metaphorical kind, or fireworks of humour and wisdom. While reading it I didn’t feel that intense urge to find out what happened next, or to devour the book as soon as possible. It was a tepid story set in a banal, industrial-grey world; after finishing it I could shrug my shoulders and move on. I related to none of the characters, I didn’t hate anybody in particular, I am not curious what will happen to them in the future. If I have to be honest I could live without meeting them at all.

I suppose I would be far more comfortable if the book was published under an alias. Now it seems to me that Ms Rowling decided to minimize any risk and to capitalize shamelessly on her previous success, selling readers something which is supposedly connected to the HP series but in reality as far away from those books as it can only be. Only after the lecture of reviews or the book itself you see you have been conned. . Had this one been penned by a debut author, without all that glamour of a world-famous name, it would have still been published but I am sure it would have also passed unnoticed and would have been forgotten soon.

By the way would it be such a bad idea to write something new (heck, even starting a new series) for adults but with fantasy elements included? Do only kids deserve a bit of fun? Taking into account how many mature readers have enjoyed the adventures of Harry and his friends, not to mention his enemies (yours truly among them) it seems like a completely rhetorical question, right?

Final verdict:

A decent novel about contemporary Britain but nothing outstanding you must or should read or you miss out on an important book. Rowling has said pre-emptively: ‘ I'm a writer and I will write what I want to write.' Ok, fine. I am a reader and I will read what I want to read. Not something like this one, though.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews42 followers
May 10, 2022
The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy is a 2012 novel written by J. K. Rowling. When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. The novel is split into seven parts, the first depicting the aftermath of the death of local Pagford Parish Councillor, Barry Fairbrother, who suffers a burst aneurysm in the car park of a local golf course.

The inhabitants of the town share the news with their friends and relatives and chaos ensues. The problem arises in deciding whether local council estate 'The Fields' should remain as part of Pagford, or instead join the local city of Yarvil, a contentious debate in which Barry Fairbrother was passionately in favour of the former option; his death is seen by many as an opportunity to end the debate once and for all.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پنجم آوریل سال2014میلادی

عنوان: خلا موقت؛ نویسنده: جی.کی رولینگ؛ مترجم: ویدا اسلامیه؛ تهران، تندیس، سال1392؛ در752ص؛ شابک 9786001820946؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده21م

متن پشت جلد کتاب: (با درگذشت «برى فیربرادر» در سال‌هاى آغازین چهل سالگى، شهر «پگفورد» در بهت و حیرت فرو مى‌رود؛ «پگفورد» با میدان و بازار سنگفرش شده، و کلیساى قدیمى‌ اش، چشم‌ انداز نفس‌ گیرى، از زندگى روستایى را، به نمایش مى‌گذارد؛ اما آنچه در فراسوى این ظاهر فریبنده، نهفته، شهرى، در جنگ و جدال است؛ ثروتمندان، با تنگدستان در جدال هستند، و نوجوانان، با پدر و مادرهاشان، زن‌ها، با همسرانشان، و دبیرها، با دانش‌آموزان و ...؛ «پگفورد» شهرى نیست، که در نگاه اول مى‌نماید؛ در این میان، کرسى خالى «برى»، در شوراى بخش، دستاویزى مى‌شود، براى برپایى بزرگ‌ترین جنگى، که این شهر در تاریخ موجودیتش، به خود دیده است؛ اینک در عرصه‌ ى این انتخابات آکنده از رنج و عذاب و فریب و ریا و افشاگرى‌هاى غیرمنتظره، چه کسى پیروز میدان است؟)؛ پایان نقل

نقل از متن: («بری فیربرادر» نمیخواست برای صرف شام بیرون برود، در بیشتر ساعات تعطیلات آخر هفته، سر درد شدیدی را تحمل کرده بود و به زحمت میکوشید مقاله ای را در موعد مقرر برای روزنامه ی محلی آماده کند؛ همسرش هنگام صرف ناهار، کمی سر سنگین و کم حرف بود و «بری» چنین نتیجه گرفت، که کارت تبریک سالگرد ازدواجشان، از این جرمش نکاسته که از صبح تا ظهر در اتاق مطالعه مانده بوده است؛ اینکه در تمام این مدت درباره‌ی «کریستال» می‌نوشته که «مری» از او نفرت داشت ولی خلاف آن را وانمود میکرد نیز سودی به حالش نداشت؛ برای اینکه سر صحبت را باز کند، به دروغ گفت: «مری»، امشب میخوام برای شام ببرمت بیرون؛ نوزده ساله، بچه ها! نوزده سال گذشته و مادرتون روز به روز خوشگلتر شده؛ «مری» با این حرف نرم شده، لبخند زده بود؛ بنابراین «بری» به باشگاه گلف زنگ زد، چرا که هم نزدیک بود هم مطمئن بودند میتوانند در آنجا میزی رزرو کنند؛ «بری» میکوشید از راههای جزیی و پیش پا افتاده، همسرش را خوشحال کند زیرا بعد از نزدیک به دو دهه زندگی مشترک، تازه فهمیده بود چه مواقع بسیاری در امور مهم و جدی�� او را رنجانده بوده است؛ البته هرگز به عمد او را نرنجانده بود؛ فقط دیدگاههاشان درباره ی آنچه باید بیشترین فضا را در زندگی پر کند، با هم بسیار متفاوت بود؛ چهار فرزند «بری» و «مری» دیگر از آب و گل در آمده بودند، و نیازی به پرستار کودک نداشتند؛ وقتی «بری» برای آخرین بار از آنها خداحافظی کرد، سرگرم تماشای تلویزیون بودند، و فقط «دکلن»، کوچکترین فرزندشان، سرش را برگرداند تا نگاهی به او بیاندازد و برایش دستی تکان بدهد؛ با اینکه سر دردش همچنان ادامه داشت، و ضربانی در پشت گوشش ایجاد میکرد، دنده عقب از پارکینگ بیرون آمد، و در خیابان شهر کوچک و زیبای «پگفورد» راه افتاد، که از زمان ازدواج شان در آن سکونت داشتند؛ از خیابان کلیسا پایین رفتند که سرازیری بود و شیب نسبتاً تندی داشت، و در دو طرف آن، خانه های گرانقیمت «ویکتوریایی»، در اوج صلابت اغراق آمیزشان، خودنمایی میکردند، سپس با پشت سر گذاشتن پیچی از کنار کلیسایی گذشتند، که با الهام از سبک معماری «گوتیک» بنا شده بود، و «بری» یکبار در آن نمایش «جوزف و کت رنگارنگ رویایی و شگفت انگیز» را تماشا کرده بود، که دختران دوقلوشان اجرا کرده بودند، سپس به آنسوی میدان رسیدند که چشم انداز خوبی از ویرانه های تیره و تار کلیسای کوچک شهر داشت، کلیسایی که بر فراز تپه، از خط افق شهر نیز بالاتر رفته و با کبودی آسمان در هم آمیخته بود)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 18/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 19/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Mohammed Arabey.
709 reviews5,725 followers
May 31, 2017
Arabic/English Review
رواية رولينج الأولي للبالغين ، دراما كبيرة عن مدينة صغيرة

الرواية دي عشان تستمتع بيها لازم متحاولش مقارنتها بـ"هاري بوتر"، ده أصلا سبب أغلب تقييماتها الضعيفة
وبعدين مش معقول نقارن سلسلة بدأت بالفتي الذي عاش، برواية تبدأ بالرجل الذي مات

ولكن هل هذا يعني أنها رواية بلا سحر، حب، جمال أو شجاعة؟
بالعكس..الرواية ساحرة، لكن بسحر الواقع شديد القبح، بها نفس الحب والخير لكنه مدفون في اعماق الشخصيات، مغطي بالانشغال والسعي وراء "الكرسي" المنصب

"المنصـــب الشـــاغـر"

دراما شخصيات ومصالح متضاربة وخلافات علي منصب واحد ، والكل يغني علي ليلاه
هي عن المسئولية...وهي تقريبا العنوان الذي كانت تود المؤلفة أختياره للرواية
فالاهم هنا هي تلك الرسالة ..المسئولية بمفهومها العام ، من مسئولية الأب لأبناءه ، او ابنه المتبني ، الأم لابنتها ، لزوجها ، المعلم للطلبة ، الدكتور للمريض ، الصديق لصديقه ، الأخت لأخيها ... والأهم صاحب المنصب والسلطة -أو الذي يسعي لها- ومسئوليته تجاه المجتمع ككل

الرواية درامية فقط ، ربما ايضا هذا سبب عدم تحقيقها تقييمات عالية، اي انه لا جريمة قتل -نعم بدأت بوفاة رجل لكنها وفاة طبيعية- ولكن مازال بها عنصر تشويقي ..احداث كثيرة ومفاجأت درامية
من خلال مجتمع صغير...مدينة صغيرة جائت تلك الرواية الكبيرة

والتي شبهها الكثيرين وقت صدورها -2012، انتخابات الامريكية بين رومني واوباما- بما يحدث في دول كبري كأمريكا

نجحت جي كي رولينج فعليا بخلق مدينة صغيرة خيالية/واقعية اسمها "باجفورد" وستشعر فعلا انك تجوبها من شرقها لغربها طوال احداث الرواية ، كما يطاردك شكل اطلال الكاتدرئية في أخرالمدينة

كما نجحت في خلق مجتمع كامل ستتعرف علي كل شخصية من شخصياته المتشابكة المتشعبة، وظروفها وبيئتها ، كما نجحت في ربط كل شخصيات المدينة بخيط واحد.. خيط المسئولية
The Casual Vacancy Family Tree

صوره توضح التشابك بين الشخصيات

الرواية الواقعية التي تنبض بالحياة تلك هي دراما انسانية
تبدأ بوفاة مهمة في سير الاحداث ، مع ذلك لا يوجد جريمة قتل -وان كنت شككت بها بمنتصف الاحداث
ويزيد من إثارتها شبح الرجل المتوفي ، مع ذلك هي ليست رواية رعب

ولنر نبذة عن


اهلا بكم في باجفورد.. ضاحية انجليزية "خلقتها"جي كي رولينج كالسحر...مدينة واقعية حقيقية..مرسوم طرقها و شوارعها واحيائها وشخصياتها وميدانها وحتي أطلال الدير علي حدودها

تبدأ الاحداث بعضو مجلس المدينة "الابرشية" باري فيربرازر الذي ينهي كتابه مقال لجريدة كبري عن كريستال ،من هي كريستا��؟ لايهم الان.. ينهي المقال كي يحتفل مع زوجته ماري فيربرازر بيوم عيد زواجهم، والذي ينتهي بوفاته المفاجأة .. انفجار في شرايين المخ

مايلز موليسون المحامي "الغني" و زوجته سامانثا اول من شهد تلك الحادثة المفجعة، وببداية نهار اليوم التالي اتصل بوالده هاورد موليسون ليبلغه بالحدث..ابيه هو اغني رجال المدينة ورئيس مجلس الابرشية"المدينة" وصاحب اكبر محل بقالة وحلويات بالمدينة

وبمجرد أن عرف هاورد بالخبر، بدأ يخطط لحصول ابنه مايلز علي المقعد الشاغر بمجلس المدينة اللي تركه باري بوفاته.. فهو دائما يسعي لان يكون ابنه خلفا له في المجلس وي��ج به في المنصب الشاغر، وعلي جانب أخر هو طالما ما واجهه خلافات مع باري حيث ان هاورد يسعي للتخلص من المنطقة التي تقع علي حدود الضاحية المسماة "الحقول" ، وهي منطقة اغلبها فقراء ، وبالتخلص من وجود "الحقول" من مدينة باجفورد سيتم التخلص من مركز اعادة تأهيل المدمنين وتلك المنطقة الفقيرة بمشاكلها و اهلها لتنتقل لحدود المدينة المجاورة "يارفيل" ويتخلص مجلس مدينه باجفورد من "وجع دماغ" تلك المنطقة

فـباري كان دائما يدافع عن تلك المنطقة واهلها..وهذا ما كان يضايق هاورد .. ولكن الأن المنصب صار شاغرا

فرحا بالفرصة، اصر هاورد ان يبلغ اول من ابلغ بارميندير جواندا زميلتهم في مجلس المدينة ، دكتورة هندية الاصل والتي دائما ماتقف بجوار باري في دفاعه عن منطقة الفقراء..وتمقت جهل وتعنت وغرور هاورد الغني الذي لا يفكر في اهل المنطقة الفقراء، فهي تعتبر نفسها هي وزوجة الدكتور فيكرام جواندا كطبقة اعلي من هاورد علما وليس مالا

في نفس الوقت الممرضة روث برايس ابلغت في نفس ذات النهار خبر وفاة باري والذي حدث في المستشفي التي تعمل بها لزوجها سيمون برايس الموظف المرتشي الصعب المراس مع ابنائه ... ليلتمع في ذهنه ان يرشح نفسه علي نفس المقعد الشاغر في مجلس المدينة الذي تركه باري بوفاته..لما قد يترتب عليه من منافع ومصالح يمكنه ان يجنيها من هذا المنصب المهم

ونأتي إلي أعز اصدقاء باري والذان بالرغم من انهما حضرا وفاته بالمستشفي ، اصرا ان يذهبا لعملهما في اليوم التالي ..انهما كولين والز ناظر المدرسة الشاملة بالمدينة و زوجته تيسا والز مسئولة التوجيه بنفس المدرسة

كولن تلتمع في صلعته فكرة انه يرشح نفسه للمقعد الشاغر اللي تركه باري بوفاته المفاجأة بصفته اعز اصدقاءه ..مع أن تيسا زوجته تري أنه لايصلح اطلاقا للمنصب لضعف شخصيته
وليس زوجته فحسب ، بل ابنه ايضا "الذي يحتقره" ستيوارت "فات" لا يري ابيه صالحا للمنصب

ابنه علي علاقة عاطفية "او جنسية بالأصح" مع زميلته في المدرسة كريستال ويدون ..نعم هي نفسها التي كان باري يكتب عنها المقال.. وهي من اكتر المتضررين من وفاته لانه كان هو المسئول عن نشاط لعبة التجديف بالمدرسة..هو مكتشف موهبتها وأنماها وساعد علي التغلب علي سمعتها السيئة بالمدرسة.. فهو دائم الدفاع عنها ومساندتها
للاسف سمعتها السيئة سببها انها من ابناء منطقة "الحقول" وامها تيري ويدون مدمنة مخدرات سابقة .. تتردد في مركز اعادة تأهيل المدمنين ب"الحقول" لجرعة الدواء التي تساعدها علي البقاء بدون مخدرات والعلاج منه.. حتي تستطيع الابقاء علي حضانة ابنها الصغير ، اخو ،كريستال روبي الذي تعتبره الاخيرة اهم من في حياتها وتعتبر نفسها المسئولة الحقيقية عنه وعن امها في نفس الوقت حتي لا تعود للمخدرات ويتم تسليم اخيها لعائلة بديلة

امها يشرف عليها موظفة جديدة من الشئون الاجتماعية كاي باودين هي التي في يدها تحديد اهليتها للحفاظ علي حضانة روبي و كريستال
كاي تلك الاخصائية الاجتماعية انتقلت لباجفورد مؤخرا هي وأبنتها جايا باودين من لندن لتلك المدينة الصغيرة باجفورد لمجرد ان تكون مع الراجل الذي احبته جافين هيوس ..الذي يعمل في المحاماة وزميل مايلز ..والذي بدا انه يشعر ان انتقالها للعيش في نفس المدينة التي يعيش فيها اكبر خطأ ، فهو لم يكن يبادلها نفس الشعور بالحب الشديد ، ولكنه اكتشف مصيبة اخري ، فهو اكتشف حبه وولعه الشديد بـماري زوجه باري ... والتي هي بالنسبة له ايضا..منصب شاغر

اما ابنة كاي، جايا فهي ايضا تشعر بضيق شديد لتركها اصدقاءها بلندن بناء علي نزوة أمها، وانضمامها للمدرسة الشاملة السابق ذكرها ، يهيم بها حبا اندرو برايس ابن سيمون ،لكنه حب صامت ويظل يحاول التقرب منها ولكن علي استحياء..بعكس اقرب اصدقاءه الجرئ فات

فات ليس فقط اسوأ ما فيه انه علي علاقة مع كريستال بل يضايق ويسخر من الفتاة الهندية سوكفيندر جواندا ..نعم ابنه بارميندير ..و��لتي لم يكفها مضايقات فات حول مظهرها..بل تشعر ايضا بان امها نفسها تنبذها لبلادتها او عدم قربها لجمالها وجمال اختها الاكبر

تبدأ الاحداث بفكرة الانتخابات ..من سيفوز بالمقعد باري الشاغر...المصالح كلها ستتشابك بشكل او باخر..صراعات بين الرجال وزوجاتهم..الابناء وابائهم..والمراهقين وبعضهم البعض..كل الابطال السابق ذكرهم سيصلون لنقطه صراع بينهم البعض

ولكن الاحداث تزداد سخونة واثارة عندما تبدأ أسرار تنكشف بشكل فضائح علي الموقع الالكتروني لمجلس المدينة اللي بتديره شيرلي موليسون زوجة هاورد ذات الخبرة الضعيفة في الكمبيوتر ولم تستطع التحكم في مخترق الموقع الذي يبث الفضائح والاسرار الخاصة للمرشحين واعضاء مجلس المدينة باسم مستعار هو شبح باري فيربرازر

حد لسه بيقرأ...الملخص خلص هنا ياجماعة :))

أسلوب الرواية
يمكن الربع الأول ده الجزء الاكثر ارهاقا...ممكن يسبب لك ملل ، عشان كدة ضفت الملخص السابق -المرهق اصلا- بحيث ان لو تحملت الربع الأول ستجد نفسك انتقلت فعلا لباجفورد وتعيش مع الشخصيات

الشخصيات كلها مع تاريخ المدينة وطبيعتها الجغرافية و حدودها ومشكلتها مع منطقة الحقول وكل هذا كان مجرد اول ربع في الكتاب الضخم عن تلك المدينة الصغيرة

الاحداث بتبدأ في السخونة تدريجيا من الربع الثاني..ليتحول الربع الاخير لنقطة الذروة

فبعد تقديم كل شخصية في فصل تبدأ أحداث الانتخابات والصراعات للوصول للكرسي "المقعد الشاغر" ، وفي الذروة نبدأ بمشهد حفل يجمع نصف الابطال.. تنكشف فيه أسرار وتصدم به الشخصيات
ثم فصل واحد شامل في اليوم التالي يستكمل ذروة الاحداث لتنتهي بجنازة مهيبة مؤثرة .. تتجلي فيها معني الرواية ورسالتها
لتنهي الكتاب بمشهد بسيط.. مؤثر.. مشهد لا اود ان احرقه الا انه يساعد في رسم مزيج من البسمة والامل والحزن علي ماضاع مننا في خضم انشغالنا لمصالحنا الشخصية عن مسئولياتنا

أحتوت الرواية علي بعض الالفاظ الصعبة وبعض المشاهد الجنسية او تعاطي المخدرات ايضا..لكنها واقعية للاسف خاصا انها عن الطبقة المتوسطة وعن المراهقين

الفصول تنقلت في كل فصل من وجهه نظر احد الشخصيات للاخري ولكن بالمنتصف الثاني من الاحداث صار هناك وجهتي نظر في الفصل الواحد الا في الفصل الاخير والذي الملحمه بين كل الشخصيات


برغم أنها رواية للبالغين ، ألا أن جي كي رولينج بتثبت انها افضل من يكتب عن المراهقين ... الدخول في نفسيتهم وعلاقاتهم المعقدة المتشابكة والنفسية سواء مع بعضهم البعض او مع اهاليهم

الكثيرين يرون -وانا منهم - ان شخصية كريستال من اهم شخصيات الرواية...تكاد تكون قد بدأت بها وانتهت مؤكدا بها
وتتجلي فكرة المسئولية بها .. سواء مسئولية باري بها او مسئوليتها تجاه امها واخيها ايضا
بل وعلاقتها بستيوارت بها ايضا مسئولية ستتشكل في الاحداث

شخصية سوكفيندر المراهقة الهندية لن تملك الا ان تتعاطف معها ومع حالتها النفسية الصعبة
وستيوارت واندرو وجايا وعلاقات الصداقة او الاعجاب والحب المعقدة

أما باقي الشخصيات... فأقوي ما أظهر الشخصيات هي المواجهات التي كانت تحدث بينهم
الشخصيات عاما مكتوبة بشكل متقن ، يكفي القول ان اول 150 صفحة مخصصة فقط لرسم الخطوط العريضة لشخصيات الرواية.. عن طريق من رسمت لنا سابقا مدرسين و طلبة وطالبات اشهر مدرسة سحر في التاريخ وايضا جميع شخصيات ذلك المجتمع السحري المختفي في طيات عالمنا

كما قدمت شخصيات الطبقة المتوسطة بشكل عبقري ومتقن ، رسمت الصراع الطبقي لدرجة ان الكثيرين رأوا بها رمز للانتخابات الامريكية 2012 بين ميت رومني و اوباما..من يريد اخلاء مسئوليته من الفقراء والطبقة المتوسطة ومن يريد بذل كل الجهد لتنميتها ، ومن اهم من علق علي ذلك المذيع الشهير جون استيوارت

الشخصيات ليس بها خير وشر... هي شخصيات عادية ، واقعية ، رمادية .. قد تكره اسلوبهم..قد تكرهه نمط حياتهم الا انك في النهاية ستتفهم وضعهم وبيئتهم وحياتهم وظروفهم..ستتعاطف مع بعضهم وسيدهشك ما قد تفعله الاحداث في تغيير بعضهم للاحسن

رواية تستحق القراءة.. وبجدارة
قد تغير رأيك حول بعض فئات المجتمع
قد تكون باجفورد مدينة انجليزية غير موجودة اساسا
لكن اساسها ومايحدث بها موجود في كل مكان في العالم تقريبا

شكرا للوصول لهذا الحد من الريفيو
"ملحوظه الريفيو الانجليزي مختلف تماما عن العربي..لأنه اول مرة اصلا كنت اكتب ريفيو انجليزي :)"
Update: الروايه نزلت عربي في 14/6/2013

محمد العربي
في 19 ابريل 2013

من 8 اكتوبر 2012
الي 10 نوفمبر 2012

الريفيو الانجليزي لها هو اول ريفيو اكتبه هنا
The English Review is my first review I ever write here
Rowling Post "The Boy who Lived": The Man Who Had Died

First of all Please give it a try ... It's not fair that most of the "One Star Ratings" are just based on the first couple parts of the book which -I admit- a real exhausting read specially the first part which is over 170 pages but afterward it's really deep, emotional and interesting story.

Secondly, The Casual Vacancy's really an extreme opposite of the Harry Potter series and it's unsuitable for some of the Harry Potter's readers so it's also unfair to be reading it expecting it'll be the same kind of entertaining as Harry Potter's and here's why..

1- Ironically the Harry Potter Series starts with the boy who lived, while this one starts with the man who had died. It's funny how Rowling deals with life and death. As Harry's being alive was what made the novel. The death of Barry Fairbrother was what has affected the lives of residents of the small city "Pagford" and every character through the novel and affected their motivations.

2-It's not about magic at all ...It's realistic, raw, ugly most of times, unpleasant life. And that's not bad thing since it's a totally different genre ... and Rowling is really awesome in drawing the life of small town, its history and the people living there whether the rich, the middle class or the poor.

3-There's -almost- no mystery events at least for us -as readers- only some parts of the ghost's posts plot. But it's not bad since there are many hidden parts at every character that was really fun to discover in further read and learn more about their lives.

4-There's no actual Good Vs. Evil Plot. There's no Evil at the whole story and no pure good person either. At some points you'd feel the character is really bad, awful, arrogant and hypocritical and the same one you'd find them later just a victim of their terrible circumstances. That's why when you first meet a character especially in the first Part - which is over 170 pages- you'll find out that you really dislike and can't feel sympathy toward the characters. For example:
Krystal Weedon, First impression that she's an awful teenager, you'd even feel it's weird that last thing Barry did was writing about her for the newspaper.. But you can't help notice that she's a true heart-breaking girl trapped in her terrible circumstances.
Also Kay when first introduced from Gavin's point of view was a terrible messy lady, but later you'd find out that she's not that bad. , she's a sincerely caring woman after all, away from the hypocrisy that existed at other characters.

I believe that all of the characters are in their own shade of gray, there's no black and white... not totally good or totally bad except a character or two that more into the black side. That's exactly how people are in real life.

5- In Harry Potter series the whole story is from Harry's point of view (POV) except 5 chapters from the whole series. It's totally the opposite here the book is in 7 parts every part got many chapters each chapter coming from one of the characters' perspective, even sometimes it switch from a character to another at the same chapter.. Which many reader find it's bad and a weakness of the novel .. But it's not bad at all , it may be confusing alittle but the novel introduced so many characters so quickly. So it's better to get a wide perspective to learn about each of these characters, rather than just one, and to learn more about their lives and past.
Rowling's writing skills was in real test here and I believe she did it right. Especially at the last Part which wasn't in chapters. It was really amazing. It's like a journey that I've really enjoyed after all.

6-For sorry the language is so much "tougher" than you'd imagine the Harry Potter author would write, I was in shock when I've read it and her statement:" "There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children's babysitter or their teacher. I was always, I think, completely honest. I'm a writer, and I will write what I want to write."
However, the language is not un-common from the middle class, even the higher one that presented in the story.

There is one common point between The Casual Vacancy and Harry Potter series which is The amazing friendship between the adolescents, their romantic interests the bullying which drawn here in amazing way , the adolescents characters and their relationship issues with each other or with their parents was a one of the basic plots at the novel and the most well written one and some how the most heart breaking .

I know it's not a real review But to sum up what I feel about the novel, without spoilers ... It's a Journey into realistic characters, in a small town after a certain event... When you finish that journey you'd may feel the tragic ending left u heart breaking BUT the very optimistic scene by the end -although it was like a flash back- will cheer you up and there's a touch of sweet hope that presented at the final part with some changes in a character that lead to peace after all. And without more spoilers the ending really will leave a nice feeling after all and I'm sure you may back to re-read the book in more appreciation.

P.S. When I start part 3 I was totally into the characters so when I tried to re-read the first part at least the character introducing parts and find out it's not that bad you should try it as I've said before the first part is exhausting read just at the first read.

P.S.2 Try to imagine your favorite cast for the characters for example I don't know why the beginning made me recall "Desperate Housewives" so I mix American cast of the show with the some adults and the adolescents from Harry Potter cast except for Krystal was Miley Cyrus in my mind. and the most ones I liked the cast i did for was,-too rediculuas when I read it now , but it helped me back then.

P.S.3: The TV Show of BBC is really a good adaptation.
Profile Image for Issy.
1 review10 followers
October 6, 2012
This book is utterly heartbreaking, but real, gritty, and slightly sickening.

I had no idea what this novel was going to be about when I bought it yesterday. Being 17, I have grown up living and breathing Harry Potter. It is correct to assume that this novel is an utter contrast to the Harry Potter series. But I think it is a most naive error to try to compare the two works. It goes to JK Rowlings credit that she can produce such varied pieces, and write them so well!

I love this novel. I find that I am attracted to it for the same reasons I am attracted to Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men: it is fast paced, never boring, develops characters well, and most importantly regularly sheds truthful insights into the workings of the human mind, and how we perceive life.

Basically, it cuts through the bullshit. It doesn't matter how pretty the prose one may read in a novel today, if you can find a book like this, one that will rip your heart open and expose it for the world to see, making you consider who you are as a person, you are lucky.

Rowling is a brilliant writer, and with such fluency and articulation she shows her characters to be three-dimensional, giving the reader no reason to hate any of them, but no reason to love them either. My favourite character would probably be Krystal, although I grew to love both Tessa Wall and Sukhvinder Jawanda increasingly. Rowling produced such strong characters in these three women, writing them so non-stereotypically, giving them unique viewpoints it's hard to believe that they were strictly fictional. In Samantha Mollison you found a 'Emma Bovary' type, types that I often have love/hate relationships with (a women so bored of her conventional married life, that she acts outrageously to fill the void inside of her.)
The only male character I had any fondness towards was Andrew Price and perhaps his poor younger brother. I found them both endearing, and could relate to their struggles.
What I like most about how she wrote her characters was the way she saved judgement; she let readers weigh up each characters strengths and weaknesses, to make a decision on how they felt about them theirselves.

Living on and off in a country town for 10 years, I found that Rowling's portrayal of country life was extremely accurate. The narrow-mindedness that is often expressed, the idea that there is no life that matters outside the town, the loyalty and defensiveness around it, the nosy community, the hunger for gossip, the rebellious adolescents.

In the end, I don't think this book as a particular agenda. I think in its brilliant 500 pages, its sole purpose is to portray life as it is. It's direct truthfulness stuns me. Those who criticise this novel for its 'dark themes' or 'foul language' simply remind me of Howard and Shirley Mollison, who don't believe terrible and dirty things actually happen in their own little universe and if they do, they are more than happy to write them off.

Bad things happen. So do good things. If you're unable to stomach this, and want Harry to defeat dark wizard after dark wizard without failure, this novel isn't for you. If you're able to accept that life isn't always sunshine and lollipops, I guarantee you will be able to relate to, and even enjoy (what a thought!) this novel.

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,887 followers
July 3, 2021
People have complained that there are a whole lot of characters in this enormous 568 page novel, I counted 32, so for the very few people who have yet to read it here is a handy cut out and keep guide.

Barry Fairbrother : he dies on page one. He didn’t need to do that. It just made things awkward.
Mary Fairbrother : the widow. She didn’t see it coming. Well, nobody did.
Their children Declan, Niamh, Siobhan and Fergus – you can forget them, they don’t figure
Howard Mollison, a very fat shopkeeper, hey, don’t shame me for fatshaming – this tremendous fatness is mentioned every time he waddles into view
Shirley Mollison, wife of Howard Mollison and mother of Miles. She is kind of tiresome. Do we have to talk about her? No.
Patricia Mollison – daughter, only appears long enough to remind her parents she is still a lesbian
Miles Mollison, one of those loud overconfident lawyer guys, man, they make me sick - son of Howard and Shirley, husband of Samantha. Never backwards in coming forwards. You know the type.
Samantha Mollison, wife of Miles. Runs a shop selling outsize bras (“over the shoulder boulder holders”) and is herself the possessor of a sizeable frontage, which gets a whole lot of mentions, which those of a nervous disposition may need to know
Krystal Weedon, underclass 16 year old feisty loudmouth who has more than her fair share of problems. The heartbreak kid of the whole saga. I mean, her mother is a junkie and she might have found her dad dead in a bath when she was six.
Terri Weedon, deadbeat junkie mother of Krystal. Impossible to like.
Robbie Weedon, her 3 year old son. He never had a chance.
Obbo, the Weedon family’s friendly local drug dealer. The uncrushable cockroach of the novel.
Colin 'Cubby' Wall, Deputy Head of the local school. Nervous wreck. I mean, really. So neurotic that you wonder how he manages to tie his own shoelaces never mind attain any position of authority. Father of Fats aka Stuart.
Tessa Wall, wife of Cubby and adoptive mother of Fats. Can we say dumpy? Yes we can, because JK Rowling does.
Stuart 'Fats' Wall, adopted son of Colin and Tessa, Andrew's best friend and a nasty piece of work. He would have loved being in the SS.
Simon Price, print works manager. Disgusting, violent piece of shit. Husband of Ruth Price
Ruth Price, doormat. She should leave that guy.
Andrew Price, son of Simon and Ruth and Fats' best friend. He has acne and a crush on Gaia (see below) that we never hear the last of
Kay Bawden, social worker - moved to this chintzy little town to be with her lawyer boyfriend, more fool her. Mother of Gaia – what kind of a name is that? Isn’t that what hippies pretentiously call the planet earth? Not that Earth would be a great name for a kid.
Gavin Hughes, lawyer and Kay's boyfriend. But he really wishes he wasn’t. You could call him Mr Reluctant.
Gaia Bawden, Kay's drop dead 16 year old daughter. She wants to go back to London. I mean, who in their right mind would live in Pagford? Old farts, that’s who. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing to do.
Parminder Jawanda, local doctor and mother of three kids and wife of Vikram. She is Mrs Angry a lot of the time, stomping around and giving out forthright opinions. Why not, somebody has to tell these people what’s what.
Sukhvinder Jawanda, daughter of Parminder. Sad plain type of teenage girl. Family nickname : Jolly. That’s not nice.
Jaswant and Rajpal Jawanda, the other two kids. They don’t figure so you don’t have to remember them.
Vikram Jawanda, most handsome man in Pagford, possibly the whole country. Think Bollywood. Mostly offstage dispensing his good looks wheresomever he may, we are not concerned.
Maureen Lowe, shuffling old dear who is Howard Mollison’s special friend. Well, dearie, they deserve each other if you want my opinion.
Dane Tully and Kevin Cooper, the lurkers at the threshold
The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother, not a real person, obv, but a major presence. He speaks from beyond the grave. Oooeeooo.


You want to know if your time would be well spent reading this long-ass novel. It's a reasonable question. I could be mealymouthed and say well, it depends on what you want out of a novel, humph, hee haw hmmm. But that's no answer. So I'll give it to you straight :

sort of.


Two additional notes -

1) I hate it when the speech of working class characters is rendered phonetically, as if they need to be distanced into exoticism from the dear middleclass assumed reader. So there is lots of stuff like this :

I on'y jus' 'eard...I tole Danielle ter call yeh when it 'appened....I 'ad a call fr'm a journalist...

(insert eyeroll emoji)

They don't indicate middle class people by writing "Dwarling, ey am jest going to have a barth" do they.

2) The back cover blurb on this paperback edition says that this was "voted the best novel of the year by users of Goodreads". So it seems they take notice of GR. I didn't know they did.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,376 reviews928 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 25, 2014
Update 7/3/2012: Well... I can't lie. That is one seriously disappointing cover.

A 2012 release date?!?!?!? SO EXCITED.

Enough said.
Profile Image for Mansuriah Hassan.
79 reviews64 followers
August 23, 2017
My desire to read this book stemmed purely from a love of J.K. Rowling's previous work (You-Know-What). I knew to expect something different as it was stated categorically that her new book was for adults. Once the book was out, I heard a number of bad reviews. However I was not disappointed with this book. I can understand the responses because of the theme and some of the scenes are gritty with some unpleasantness, very real-life and honest.

In The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling has made a successful transition to the real-world. Especially when she gets into the minds of 16 years old boys is class. All human traits are here – love, hate, anger, romance, betrayal, envy, jealousy (you name it) all taking place in the aftermath of the untimely death of a parish councillor. All of the characters in this book are flawed, some seriously. You will find yourself casting judgement on an individual, only to have your opinion receded by the next chapter. Gritty and controversial themes are explored throughout. This is a great story-telling.

The prejudice, the judging, the conversation behind closed doors, the circumstances surrounding the addiction and poverty and dependencies, all of it, is so spot on. The complicated inter-relationships of small communities, the clash of cultures that is such a feature of the present day life and the pettiness of some of the local politicking, again, J.K. Rowling does an incredible job describing it all. I also loved the Dickensian approach she made here, of telling the story of a town, rather than a character. It is a marvelous example of just how good an author she is when she weaves a rich tapestry of characters and situations together in a masterful and undeniably thought-provoking way.

Don't pick up this book if you are expecting the same sort of Harry Potter style because it is quite graphic with a lot of swear words. Don’t be distracted by naysayers or negative reviews. If you enjoy reading a gritty story with characters anyone can relate to, then this is the book for you.

Read it and judge for yourself :)
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews532 followers
October 18, 2017
First off, a confession, I was predisposed to not so much like this book. I had read many positive reviews yes; even so, positive or negative, they all shared a common theme. That is to say lack of plot. And I’m here to tell you, it’s all true, although it is not so much a lack as an absence.

This is character development at its finest and even Pagford the community, comes forward in that undertaking. As much a character as say Howard, and despite our narrow view of Pagford’s people, we walk away with an overwhelming sense of the place and the time. Rowling knows how to set a scene, letting it wash over you warm and slow as you read, and learn more about the people that live within these pages.

The author certainly knew them, each and every one, and then set out to draw us, the reader, a picture. It works. You can step into this story and it all seems so easy, a mere sweep of her pen.

Did I have favourites, you bet. But here’s the thing; each and every one of these characters added depth, colour, and the means to better understand the story being told. They were all ruddy brilliant.

It begins with the untimely death of Barry Fairbrother.

As readers, I’m guessing we all share in an instinctual knowledge that comes sometimes when we read. We feel it in our gut. Gripped. Gripped and comfortable with the language, the flow, the pace, the place and the people: comfortable in the claw of a gifted story teller.

Beware though, the only magic you will find here lay in the power of each and every word that pulled me forward. I had to remind myself to slow down, to chew, and to savour.

This is the kind of book that wants reading, feet up, in front of a fireplace, with a glass of the good stuff by your side. Come join me. :)
Profile Image for Mercedes.
22 reviews7,705 followers
May 25, 2022
I don't know how to start this review really - let me explain why: I was planning on reviewing this book solely on it's own merit and am shocked at the amount of people (based on the other reviews on this page) who haven't. I thought there would be a few people who saw the whole reading of the book as a comparison to Harry Potter but I am shocked by the amount of people who have done so. I don't understand why all these people who have read the book (or many of you so it would seem read a small portion of it and then reviewed it anyway)are offended by the swearing and vulgarity and feel that Rowling has in some way offended Harry Potter fans by doing so - I'll let you in on a secret- she doesn't write for us, she writes for herself as all authors should. Because if they constantly question who may or may not be offended no books would ever be written - in fact Harry Potter would never be have been written as it offended many people and in some places even instigated mass book burning's. Another thing is that even if I didn't enjoy the book I wouldn't feel let down by Rowling because I personally feel that she has given me more than enough and owes me nothing.

Now my rant is over i'll end by saying very simply that I very much enjoyed the book. I found it very hard to put down and really cared what happened to all of the characters (even if most of them were unlikable). It wasn't what I expected at all but I was pleasantly surprised. I will definitely be buying any future adult books she releases. I don't understand people who say the story was slow, at no point did I feel that I wanted to flick through some pages to get to tastier sections.

My advice is to read this book forgetting who the author is and with no expectations of what the story will be and then if you don't enjoy it of course that is fine. But to not enjoy something just because it isn't what you expected is ridiculous.
Profile Image for Hannah.
797 reviews
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
October 4, 2012
I didn't have any giddy expectations for Rowling's first foray into the world of adult fiction, but will admit to being curious as to how she would approach it. Now with 64 pages under my belt, my personal verdict is in: Did not Finish.

It's not a badly written book, but what little I read I found dull and pedestrian, which surprised me more then anything given Rowling's richly imaginative mind. In addition, the crude language seemed more forced then natural, almost as if Rowling needed to drive home the point that she was writing an A.D.U.L.T piece of fiction rather then have the words make sense within the context of her characters and story (if that makes any sense). And on a purely personal note, I think the inclusion of the c-word in any work of literature not exclusively hard-core erotica is a lame excuse to look edgy. Must be the new buzz word in the literary world, although to me it always denotes a lack of taste and style. My opinion only. You are welcome to disagree, as I'm obviously not the target reading audience for this genre (whatever genre this is).

So take these scribblings more as observations then a proper review, and note that I am assigning no rating to it. My overall take on what little I read is that it's probably a so-so book to the right audience when all's said and done, but would never receive the hype it's gotten had John Smith written this and not J.K. Rowling.

My only recommendation to anyone (fan or not) interested in this book would be to test drive it at the library before forking over your hard earned dough for it, and read some of the reviews coming in from readers who actually finished the book. Afterwards, you may find you can't live without it permanently displayed on your bookshelves or e-reader. If so, good on you. Or you may find yourself bemused by the hype but glad you saved yourself a few dollars.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 11 books842 followers
December 16, 2012
Where I got the book: my local library.

It took me a while to decide to read this book; I had really enjoyed the Harry Potter books but would not go so far as to call myself a fan of JK Rowling, and why would I be interested in her as an adult-novel writer anyway? I'd seen a fair amount of negativity on reader loops; people didn't like the swearing, the book was too different from Harry Potter, there were too many characters so the story was confusing, etc. And then when this novel won the Goodreads Choice award for 2012, didn't that just mean that JKR won the popularity contest? Wasn't I just letting myself in for a disappointment after all the hype? And so on.

I take it all back. Let me say three things at the outset:

- this novel is officially my Big Surprise Read of 2012;
- it goes on my list of the best novels I've read this year;
- and, after all these years, I will now identify myself as a fan of JKR.

And one more note: I will not apologize for discussing the Harry Potter series in this review. I hope I can raise enough points to claim that The Casual Vacancy is completely consistent, artistically, with its much more famous younger cousin.

If you're having trouble with this book and you're American, I don't blame you. I've lived here long enough to understand that the dialect, the swearing and the peculiarly English way of viewing class may make this novel difficult to relate to. It's an extremely English work; never, as far as I can recollect, has JKR made any concession to the huge and lucrative market across the Atlantic in her books. Harry Potter worked in America because it's based in a fantasy England of steam trains, school uniforms, tuck shops, quaint villages and dark, mysterious olde-worlde London. Not many Americans would be familiar with the Enid Blyton stories that provided such a vast pool of inspiration for Harry Potter, but I believe they would instinctively clue into that early-20th-century image of England as what they want England to be, rather than what it is. The Casual Vacancy gets a whole lot closer to real England and therefore loses much of that advantage of instant accessibility.

Well, I'm a great many words into this review and I still haven't said what the book's about. It begins with the sudden death by aneurism of Barry Fairbrother, a Parish Councillor for the small town of Pagford. Parish Councils, for those who don't know, are a basic unit of local government in non-urban England; their powers can have a considerable effect on the infrastructure and life of a country town. In Pagford, the bone of contention is a low-income housing estate, the Fields, which by historical accident has ended up as a part of middle-class Pagford rather than being absorbed into the more urban conglomerate of Yarvil where, as far as most Pagfordians are concerned, it belongs. They don't want what they see as a bunch of no-hopers sending their kids to the "good" Pagford schools and consuming an inordinate amount of the available social services and unemployment benefits. A related issue is the survival of the addiction clinic, whose clients frequently come from the Fields; again, why support a service that is a burden on the middle class citizens of Pagford, who are far too upright and clean-living to need such help?

The death of Fairbrother--who grew up in the Fields and was a passionate advocate for its children--leaves a "casual vacancy" on the Parish Council, and the two sides of the debate over the Fields and the clinic muster their candidates. While the adults in the novel's cast struggle with fitting local politics into their already messy lives, their teenage children have problems of their own. Andrew's home is a nightmare because of his abusive, violent father; Fats's casual cynicism and pursuit of what he perceives as authenticity but most of us will view as shallow "coolness" will have a destructive effect. Sukhvinder struggles with being the only academically weak member of a high-achieving Asian family and the self-loathing brought about by her victimization at the hands of classmates, Gaia is miserably displaced from her London home, and Krystal, who lives in the Fields, struggles to keep her junkie mother clean and look after her little brother.

Yes, pretty much the characters you'd expect in a socially conscious novel, and you could argue that there's a fair amount of cliché here. The plethora of story lines means that JKR has to keep character development on pretty clear and unambiguous lines, so there's not a whole lot of nuance or big surprises in store. Every adult has a predictably messy life and the adults, to my mind, are not as clearly or as sympathetically drawn as the teenagers.

The real star of the novel is the underdog Krystal Weedon, half-literate, neglected and abused but determined to make her life better in any way available to her. Like Harry Potter she's both underdog fighting hero and sacrificial victim; unlike Harry she is, after Fairbrother's death, virtually friendless in a world where there's no magic to be wielded. Out of all the characters I think this is the one that JKR really invests with complexity and pathos, and ironically Krystal, with her near-feral dialect and her f-bombs, will be the least accessible character to many readers. It's a credit to JKR that she underscores Krystal's personhood and at the same time paints an accurate picture of how the middle-class characters see this courageous, powerless girl as a threat or an object of half-disgusted fascination.

In Harry Potter JKR magnifies class conflict into an all-out war between competing factions; in The Casual Vacancy the action is small-scale and the teenagers rebel and protest in very middle-class ways--getting drunk, smoking cigarettes and a little weed, scoping for sexual experience with that laser-like hormonal focus we probably all remember. The adults in the novel are the ones who do the abstract thinking; the teenagers simply do, and their superior knowledge of computer skills allows them to take part in the parish council election in a retaliatory fashion that's effective because they understand their parents' weakest points and worst hypocrisies. There's a touch of that role-reversal that we see in Harry Potter and, in fact, in many young-adult stories on TV and in film; the teenagers take control of the adult world from their useless, clueless parents. The wish-fulfillment of the powerless? Only, in The Casual Vacancy there's no ultimate triumph.

Above all I found that JKR's ability to tell a story and imagine a world kept me reading on for page after page when I'd decided I really was only going to read one more chapter. A few days after finishing the novel I can see the points where I can criticize, but while I was reading it I was spellbound. I've heard that this is the novel JKR really wanted to write and I'll concede that it probably wouldn't have stood a chance of being published back when she was an unknown. If she had begun her career now, she might have self-published it and achieved a measure of success because it's well written and engaging, but she'd probably have remained an obscure English writer in the realist tradition. Harry Potter has given her the chance to shape herself into, not necessarily Dickens as some of the hype has suggested, but certainly into a powerful force for social criticism in the form of readable, entertaining novels. There are worse ways of exploiting fame.
153 reviews102 followers
October 11, 2012
Gritty, realistic, layered portrait of a small town in crisis. In the fallout of parish councillor Barry Fairbrother's death, the stories of a diverse cast of unhappy people are woven together: some likeable, most not. The upcoming election for Barry's empty council seat fuels a sea of pettiness, gossip, and self-interest, and long-simmering resentments come to a head.

Let me start off by mentioning, as everyone else has, that this is not Harry Potter. Muggles only. In addition to the conspicuous dearth of wizards, it lacks the kooky charm, sentimentality, and optimism of the other series. Rowling is pretty unrecognizable. That said, as an adult novel that tackles sobering subjects like drug addiction, child abuse, and rape, it's bound to be a bit denser. I didn't find it as shocking as some people did, though. Yes, there is profanity. Yes, there is violence. Yes, there is sexuality. But it is never excessive or graphic or gimmicky. I got the sense that Rowling just wanted a no-holds-barred look at life in Pagford from all angles. Omitting swear words or the more disturbing events would have seemed far less raw and honest.

Multiple perspectives can be hard to pull off (jarring, choppy, etc), but the transitions are executed smoothly. The realistic, distinctive internal dialogue is the strong point of the novel, creating fully-realized and 3D characters you come to know very well. Some you wish you didn't - the small-minded and pernicious Mollison clan remind me of the Dursleys + Umbridge, and it was hard to read through their prejudiced and self-satisfied small talk. But there are also some fundamentally well-intentioned but flawed folks that I enjoyed following around and seeking to understand (Andrew, Parminder, Fats, etc). All the characters feel, as Fats would say, authentic.

The novel is slow-paced (and drags sometimes), but it carries a sort of slow burn. You detect certain tensions building and building and wonder what the culmination of those tensions will mean. Every action has consequences that echo through the rest of the book.

Ultimately, it's a fairly dark novel, but all the same, I felt reluctant to let the characters go at the end. Which is always a good sign.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,970 reviews1,982 followers
April 24, 2014
***UPDATE APRIL 2014: A BBC/HBO co-production of this book will start filming this summer, and will air in 2015 (most likely). An interesting video talk by Rowling about this book. 35 minutes.

Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

My Review: This was going to be a nastygram to billionairess Rowling, all about setting up expectations and not meeting them, blah blah blah. What cheek. Some little man, well littler than I used to be for sure, sitting with his netbook perched on his lap pillow querulously tapping out a chastisement of one of the world's richest, and most deserving of it, writers.

Plus, I was wrong.

This is in no way an inferior book, it's not badly crafted, it's got some snarky sparkly characters, and it's telling a story quite akin to the one in Peyton Place. And that book's been in print since long before I was born. (Well, maybe not long exactly, but before.) (It was TOO before! Quit muttering.)

What it isn't is the problem. No, not Harry Potter, of course it's not; but it's also not groundbreaking and amazing. It's a solid, middle of the pack read, and we expect Rowling to bowl us over with imaginative flights and eternal verities expressed pithily by wildly romantically named characters. She tells us a right good story. She hits on all imaginable human foibles. She puts some amusing and cutting lines in the mouths of her ladies. I finished the book because I kept thinking about Pagford and its peeps. Now that is an achievement that most writers don't manage, making me think about their characters after I've put a book down.

So why the mingy three stars? Because in the end, I was wrong to be snarky and dismissive of a well-made book, but I wasn't wrong to want a writer with Rowling's track record to wow me again. She's done it seven times before. Why not this time? It's what I'm craving. So please Ms. Rowling, please, tell me another story when, and only when, you feel The Tingle and have the goods to deliver.

And thanks for silently teaching me to get over myself. It's a valuable lesson. Every time I learn it, it gets more valuable.

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31 reviews1 follower
September 30, 2012
I think J K Rowling is a brilliant writer and I would have bought this book if it were $117.99 and written in pencil on toilet paper. It is distressing that readers punish the author for the greed of the publishers. I had no idea what to expect and for some reason I was thinking Agatha Christie or PD James. Truth is, it was more like Salinger or Vonnegut, harsh realism and depressing insight into human weaknesses. The book is gritty, dark, humorous, and too believable. The characters are real, fragile, not likeable, and for the most part doomed. Rowling’s writing is seamless and drags you in. Just like Harry Potter, you feel as if you know these people. You wish you could shake them, kill them, or help them. I couldn’t put the book down. I can’t say I enjoyed it, rather I experienced it and I am sure I will be thinking about it for a long time to come. As I mentioned before, I think Rowling is brilliant and this book solidifies my feelings. She is an amazing author, with an incredible mind. I would highly recommend the book. It is something you shouldn’t miss.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,478 reviews7,775 followers
May 26, 2017
Find all of my review at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

The Casual Vacancy has been rated by nearly a quarter of a million Goodreaders and (in case you can’t tell by the 3.27 rating) a good chunk of them weren’t terribly impressed. Although I’ve already trolled my nemesis pal Ron 2.0 about reading this wrong, I’m not entirely convinced he did this time around. I’m also not going to try to convince any of you to read it. I’m fairly certain J.K. Rowling won’t have to resort to prostitution for my crap review not generating an additional book sale. Instead I’ll do what I do best – not talk about the book at all.

Stephen King wrote a review on this book and made a spot-on comparison to another seedy little novel about the goings on amongst the population of a quaint little hamlet . . . .

(Although that was the first story that came to my mind, I couldn’t help also thinking this was a less stabby version of King’s own Needful Things due to all of the characters being absolutely wretched. However, it’s in pretty shit taste to name drop your own book so mad props to you for keeping it classy Uncle Stevie.)

When I was a kid I looooooooved movies like Peyton Place (and someone please remind my geriatric self that would be a good selection for Banned Books Week) and I was so envious of Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window . . . .

Who was able to peep on an entire apartment complex across from him when he was laid up (I totally would have been cool with having two broken legs if it meant I could people watch all day). Although Turner Classic Movies was a channel that played on the regular at my grandparents’ house, I had little interest in the happily-ever-after romances and giant production numbered musicals. Instead I tuned in over and over again to films like A Place In The Sun (are you familiar with that one? Dude knocks up his fat white trash girlfriend and then kills her when it looks like he has a shot of living the country club lifestyle with Elizabeth Taylor) . . . .

What can I say? I was a weirdo pretty much from the start and The Casual Vacancy fell in line with those mentioned above as being my type of story. The only decent human in the entire thing? Dead on page 1. Every other character ranged from depressing to despicable. Buuuuuuuut, even though I loved seeing how warped Rowling’s mind could go, this sucker was a slog. It took three solid days of reading to get through and if you know me, you know that’s a long time. It’s also a book where nothing really happens . . . . while everything is building up to happen. The big payout does come at the end but it is not without some serious investment in the lives of these townsfolk.

So read it if you want, don’t read it if you don’t want. And be thankful you won’t recognize yourself in any of these characters. Especially Samantha who is missing something in her real life that makes her develop a bit of an obsession with a member of one of her child’s favorite bands to the point where she buys concert tickets in order to go lust after the young man properly . . . .

Oh, wait . . . . .

4 Stars because even if I gave it less it would be 3.5 and I’d choose to round up for the simple fact that Rowling is savage as a mothereffer . . . .

#7 on the Winter Reading Challenge because:

We can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
Don’t take nothing from nobody
Yeah yeah
Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews394 followers
February 2, 2013
Check out this review and others like it at BadAssBookReviews

Casual Vacancy is a beautifully written work of art. Nothing has been missed in the story. No storyline was neglected. Every character and every scene is perfectly orchestrated to completion. Reading Casual Vacancy is like eating that perfect meal. It starts off with an explosion of flavor, akin to a beautifully prepared appetizer and from there Rowling guides the reader through a perfectly told story that is nicely sustained. A good story is one that the reader does not want to put down, but is not forced to rush through. It is a story that once over, its characters will be missed. And once completed, the storyline line and messages are still being contemplated in the minds of its readers. This is the brilliance of Casual Vacancy.

What about the bad reviews? What about all the readers who put it down out of what they said was disappointment and boredom? I was not dissuaded or discouraged when I read the very first publicized negative reactions to Casual Vacancy or heard from various friends and other reviewers, “My friend started this and was bored so she put it down”. Harry Potter had such huge wide spread appeal that it makes sense that many of her former fans would give this a try or think about giving it a try, but Casual Vacancy – while nearly perfectly written in my opinion – is not a book that will have wide spread appeal. Despite my opinion on this, Casual Vacancy does have staying power and it has its own beauty. The thing about Harry Potter is that all sorts of readers consumed it. And all sorts of non-readers read it. To please that type of audience would take something like, well the Hunger Games to satisfy everyone. But that is not being fair to Harry Potter and its fans, Hunger Games (in my opinion) while fun and very good, does not come close to the brilliance of the Harry Potter series (and if you have only read the first one or two in the series, then you have no idea what I mean … read the later ones!). My point – Casual Vacancy is not a repeat of Harry Potter in terms of having wide spread appeal.

At the risk of being confusing and contradictory – Casual Vacancy is very similar to Harry Potter. Whaatttt????

For readers of the entire series of Harry Potter, I am confident what remains with them even years after reading the books are the characters – the depth of the individuals developed, their struggles with moral dilemmas, the depiction of how absolutely horrible human beings can be to others when given the opportunity, their personal losses and their small victories. That is what I remember, more than any complicated mythology behind wands and horcruxes – I remember the characters. The Harry Potter books are immense in length and the story takes 7 books to tell, because it is the characters’ stories that filled the pages.

Casual Vacancy appears to be set in a nearly perfect setting: a small town where people know each other and have for generations. This is a town that is not war torn, is not fighting a famine or dangerous gangs and is not facing a spiraling out of control crime rate. This book does not have an external pressure affecting its characters or a complicated plot line each is struggling through. What this story comes down to is just the people appearing on the pages of the book and how people live their lives, how people treat each other, and what motivates them to act. The story is told from the alternating third person point of view a large number of characters. At first, keeping track of each character is task. I actually kept a cheat sheet. However, after about 10% of the book each character was solidly embedded and I no longer needed my notes. In the beginning of the story, it first appears that all of the characters are somehow involved with one main character that has died. And yes, while that is true they have that in common, that is not really the point – the point is not their connection but their own individual stories.

The characters in Casual Vacancy are each trapped in their own universe of interests, surrounded by their own self focused motives. They cannot seem to see beyond their own pain and struggles and because of this, they don’t see those who truly need help. There are heartbreaking scenes in this book, but they are essential to go through because it is a forcing of the reader to notice the pain of others – in a way that many of us probably do not in real life. This book provides an amazing lesson to each of us and is inspiring. Stop, open our eyes, help those around us, see people from their perspective instead of judging.

Who would enjoy this book? Readers that enjoy literary fiction, character studies or societal observations . This book is not an adventure tale nor is it a story with a beginning, middle and end. It is a window into the lives of a small town – the readers get a glimpse and then it is over. Readers looking for a tight resolution, a beautiful and satisfying end, and the triumph of good over evil should not attempt Casual Vacancy. They will be disappointed. This is not a book to be skimmed, but instead it is one to be immersed in and it takes awhile to get through. So patient readers are needed as well. I plan on re-reading this book and I anxiously wait for Rowling’s next effort.
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
575 reviews7,744 followers
October 26, 2014
I really liked this. I knew I would. The plot seemed long and boring, two things that I love in books. Rowling is clearly a master storyteller, it's evident in this novel. The plot was really captivating, I honestly could not stop reading. The novel overall reminded me of Hardy, you get this overview of a town and its large cast of characters. Obviously this isn't anywhere near the brilliance of Hardy but it echoes him well.

The problems that I had with this was that, at the beginning I felt that Rowling just dumped all these characters on you, expecting that you just individually remember each person. She must have thought, "oh I must get all of these character introductions out of the way so I can start the plot". Eh it was a bit overwhelming. Also the novel's a bit long. The plot does sag at parts and really can't sustain 500 pages. I felt that you could skim a couple of chapters and it really wouldn't make that much difference to the overall plot.

I liked this more than I liked the Harry Potters, I never really "got" Harry Potter. I really hope Rowling writes more novels like this. I'll definitely be buying more!
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
I was startled by how much I liked this book. I tried to go into it without expectation, without expecting it to be good or terrible, or like Harry Potter, or anything. But it grabbed me almost immediately and didn't let go.

There is, of course, very little in common with Harry Potter. But that doesn't mean there is nothing in common.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
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