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The Casual Vacancy


3.3 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars23%
  • 4 Stars26%
  • 3 Stars24%
  • 2 Stars18%
  • 1 Star9%
3.36 / 5 based on 377 Reviews

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The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
Reviews (377)
Q&A (41)
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  • "It wasn't that it "wasn't Harry Potter" but all of the characters were awful and I couldn't like any of them so I didn't really care what happened by the end." in 179 reviews
  • "There is no one for the reader to sympathize or identify with in this whole book; coming on the heels of the enormous success of the child friendly Harry Potter series, it is just too big of a shift for fans to take." in 35 reviews
  • "It starts with the death of a local political figure and then you realize that pretty much everyone in this small town has some sort of problem." in 20 reviews
  • "For me, I loved the personalities of the different characters, the character development, the setting, the real-horrible situations of people." in 10 reviews
  • "I was interested in reading this novel because it is by JK Rowling of the Harry Potter series, and I hadn't read any other books by her and I wanted to see her writing style outside the Harry Potter books." in 9 reviews
Allie S.
Gap, PA
109 reviews
This is definitely NOT Harry Potter. However, the writing is brilliant and engaging. Be warned, this is NOT a happy, light read. But her ability to make me care for, and weep over characters I actively disliked- is the magic of JK Rowling. Who would think that a simple story about an open spot on a community board would make you think and feel so much?
Ashley C.
Wichita, KS
34 reviews
This book is not for everyone. There is no getting around that fact and several people who pick it up solely because J. K. Rowling wrote it are going to be sorely disappointed. I may be a raging Potter fan, but I am going to be in the minority here, I just know it.

On a large scale, this is about how poor people are perceived and treated. A small town in England is thrown into turmoil when a council member dies unexpectedly. He is one of the biggest supporters of, and a crucial vote in keeping, the town's subsidized housing and addiction clinic. Rowling delves into how the people of the town view the public programs and those that benefit from them. Hint: in most(but not all)cases, people feel contempt and tend to dismiss or demonize them.

While I like the larger purpose of "The Casual Vacancy", my favorite quality of the novel is Rowling's ability to introduce such a large cast of characters and draw them each so specifically. By the end, you know each of these people so well that it is kind of astounding. Most of the criticism I have read of the book is based in this. Many feel is slow-paced and that everyone is unlikeable. The slow pacing serves the book well, as it really gives you a feel for the town and everyday life. There is very little sweeping action and this is a book of small details. As for the characters, they are all unlikeable in the beginning and only a few are even a little redeemed by the end. In this, though, it is easy to find our own flaws and shortcomings. The small redemptions that were dealt out were more moving because of their relative smallness because they were so authentic.

I really enjoyed this book. In the beginning, I was excited that even with the different subject matter and format, I could still hear Rowling's voice in the writing. After awhile, I didn't even care that it was there because I was so wrapped up in what was happening. There were uncomfortable moments, sure. There is a ton of cussing, there is sex, and there is Rihanna. (In the audio version, the narrator, a proper British male, does Jay-Z's rap and it beats out all the sex, drugs, and cussing for most uncomfortable moment.) Make no mistake, this is a gritty book. It needs to be and it is why those Harry Potter fans are going to be largely disappointed. It makes me sad because this is a quality book.
Anne M.
Rochester, NY
22 reviews
So, let's start with the technical stuff. The writing is very similar to the writing of Harry Potter -- it's not more wordy or structurally complicated, it's actually very accessible and totally an easy read. It's more adult in its subject matter and frequent f-bombs. At first I was a bit disappointed, since I was looking forward to some prose that could be a bit more challenging or stimulating, but I dismissed that wish very quickly, probably thirty pages in. I love the way she writes. It's basic, but beautiful. The story speaks for itself... it doesn't need any flashy parallel structure or streaming metaphors to stand on its own.

Okay, now for my thoughts on the plot: I know a lot of people thought Robbie's death was cheap, that Rowling just got lazy at the end, that she was just trying to be dramatic. I know a lot of other people who were just disappointed, confused, or indifferent.

I am none of those people. I actually thought the deaths of Krystal and Robbie were sad and beautiful... Robbie, the dirty and neglected child, being washed away in the river was like a kind of baptism into another world, a baptism only available through death. Krystal's suicide was a crime of passion, a desperate attempt to follow Robbie to wherever he was, using the tools of her Mother's demons to take her to the place of angels, the place of purity she longed for. I thought it was very well done.

I don't think they died in vain, either. My favorite character ended up being Samantha Mollison, and I think their deaths really changed her and made her, suddenly, into someone I just loved. She was humbled, she was changed, she really turned herself around, in a way I never would have thought possible. She sort of reminded me of Edmund, in the Narnia books -- he's so awful and detestable at the beginning, but after the death of Aslan, he completely redeems himself and becomes known as the most just and merciful king in Narnia. I think Samantha Mollison is the Edmund of this book.

There's a lot to say about a lot of other aspects in this book, but those were my two biggest thoughts.
Heather C.
Coldwater, MS
77 reviews
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling is perhaps somewhat of enigma. I, just like countless thousands of other readers was so curious about what this author would come up with after so many hugely popular Harry Potter books. This book was in a way, refreshing, and in a way disappointing. Let me explain.
I knew going in after watching the news coverage on the release of this book, that it was intended for adults. I also knew that it was a...bit off the beaten path, particularly when held in comparison to her previous books. I think that is where we reviewers may be going wrong. As much as we swear we will not judge this novel off of previous books by this author, the magic and wonder of her previous series is steadfastly and stubbornly locked in our minds.
I did my best to lay Harry and his magical friends to rest when I picked up "The Casual Vacancy." So from here on I will not mention the previous series again.
What I loved about this book: This book was funny at times, sad at others and moved along at a good enough clip to keep my mind occupied. I thought the town was great, the characters were sharp and the writing itself was very good. I liked that the author told the fans what she wanted to write this time rather than beat a dying horse to death and stick with the program.
I liked that the ending left you wondering certain things and yet answered the most important things. I thought the book was well edited and intelligent, regardless of the subject matter.
What I didn't like: (Attempting to do this without spoilers) I really couldn't see how some of the material in this book could be considered as coming from a comedic standpoint. The opinion I got when watching the pre-release coverage for this book was that it was supposed to be tinged with comedy. Some of the issues in this book are just plain depressing and not at all what I would have considered a topic to laugh about.
I found an undercurrent throughout this book that strangely, made me hate it for the same reason I loved it. I felt as though the author went to extremes trying to prove that she could write something other than young adult fiction, that in an odd way, made the writing came out a bit juvenile.
I also felt that the author spent a bit too little time on description and a bit too much time pondering the macabre. Perhaps it was just me, but I came away feeling a bit dry. For me, this book was like sitting on a hilltop with your camera poised on a beautiful sky waiting for that perfect sunset. All of a sudden, your expectations are shattered when a huge cloud moves in front of the sun and ruins the shot. I expected so much for a book that was five years in the making. I did not feel this book measured up to that expectation.
J.K. Rowling previously said that she would not want to talk to anyone who did not cry at the end of this book. I hope I am not the first to disappoint her, but Not a single tear did I shed. I seriously came away feeling casually vacant.
To those of you who are moaning and groaning over the prices of the kindle books and leaving negative reviews...it is wingardium leviosa....NOT Wingardium Levi-o-sahhhhhhh. Read the book before you judge. I did.
Amy M.
Waterford, PA
240 reviews
I liked this book very much I found it very raw and her characters were complex but well explained. I found I could relate to several of them, even though I haven't gone through their specific experiences. This book showed average people and their struggles and I found it very real. 

Of course it's nothing like Harry Potter. This is a book based in the real world, and it was far more heavy than the Harry Potter series. This book was written for adults. 
Logan C.
Montgomery, AL
14 reviews
The Casual Vacancy was different from any book I have ever read. It is not my usual cup of tea, but I had to read it because, 1) I am a huge fan of J.K. Rowling and 2) I had to see what all the fuss was about. I was not disappointed in the story and characters as they were extremely descriptive and came to life right before your eyes. I also enjoyed the political and societal undertones throughout the book.

The story takes place in the small town of Pagford and follows at least fifteen characters. If constantly going back and forth from character-to-character annoys you, this may not be the book for you. I did have a hard time keeping up with the fifteen main characters as they all had chapters written from their point of view. The characters are blemished in their own ways, but they depict real life for many people in our world that we don't feel comfortable talking about.

I must admit that I was shocked by the vulgar language and it's frequency used throughout the book. When she decided to write an "adult" novel, she meant ADULT as this book involves hard drugs, distasteful sexual scenes and the harsh language. I had a difficult time getting in to the book at first but 300 pages in, I found that it was quite enjoyable.

I would not tell anyone not to read this book, however, I would advise that only adults read it because of it's content. It is definitely not a book for everyone. There were parts of this story that were enjoyable and parts that horrified me. To answer the big question - no, this book is nothing like the Harry Potter Series, although J.K. Rowling's writing style is apparent.
Ana V.
65 reviews
Casual Vacancy is one of the first books JK wrote following the success of the Harry Potter Series. This book was targeted for adults. The book has a very boring storyline and it is hard to stay interested. It is well written but lacks excitement. HBO made a mini series of the book and it was also very hard to finish. Overall the story is lacking.
Tiffany K.
Vancouver, WA
25 reviews
It's probably impossible for anyone to read this book with an entirely fresh perspective. But I am having a very difficult time seeing where some of the other reviews are coming from.

It's not unlike other contemporary authors who write realistic fiction such as Tom Perrotta and A. M. Homes. A Casual Vacancy didn't feel like uncharted territory to me. One consistent thought throughout the book was, why did this story need to be told? There is nothing that special or unusual about it. Mundane people living mundane lives. Everyone is fairly average. We'd like to think we're better and more interesting than these people but most of us aren't.

The characters mostly have bland names and it's quite easy to get them and their various quirks confused. The book started out slowly and took a long time to engage me, but toward the middle that began to change and the story picked up speed until the end.
Terrible things happen, yes but they are not told in a horribly graphic or exploitative way. It is not a pretty story, it is not a fun story. But the writing is solid and in the end I do think the book accomplished something. Told a story of how small things, almost no-things can impact people and have a snowball affect. Our lies and scheming and misbehavior do impact others, but mostly they just make the do-er miserable.

Solid writing. Moderate characters. Weak premise. I'd like to see Rowling hit all three out of the ballpark next time, but I certainly didn't hate this book. I'm stingy but I still give it three stars.
Michaela C.
332 reviews
I understand why some people didn't like this book, because they were expecting something more fantasy-like and whimsical from J.K. Rowling.  However, I found it refreshing to read a really well-constructed and thoughtful adult novel.  It's not often that contemporary fiction draws me in, but The Casual Vacancy definitely did.
Sang K.
Sykesville, MD
296 reviews
Bookworm Expert Level 1
I think that Rowling was trying so hard to distance herself from the characters from the Harry Potter universe that she forgot to fully develop these ones. You get the feeling that you don't really know the characters all through the book.
Nina A.
Lawrenceville, GA
11 reviews
Worth reading?
Shelby T.
Yukon, Ok
70 reviews
Do you like the harry potter series or this better and why?
Kayla O.
Cabot, AR
85 reviews
What this story about? Like Harry potter?
Dani R.
Lomita, CA
61 reviews
Which do you prefer? Hard copy or paperback?
Nicole D.
66 reviews
What made you read it??

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