Customer Review

59 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, perfectly crafted prose, October 2, 2012
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
Firstly,I am shocked to see so many bad reviews. I hope most of them are from people who expected Harry Potter, if not in genre, at least in feel : good will triumph, people have treasures in their souls no matter how hard they mutilate it etc.
For me, publicists and JKR interviews have done their job to dispel those hopes, so I feel I went in knowing what to expect.
The book is not fantasy, it's the sharpest work of social observation I have read in a long time. Another reviewer was complaining about the ugliness of every single character, how they all lacked redeeming qualities. That's because they are all stripped -in best heterodiegetic narrator fashion- of all the pretenses and hypocrisies of the social animal, even the ones so deeply ingrained they do not admit to themselves. Old women do not get charity work to help others, they do it to feel self important and inflict their opinions on people forced to listen. Husbands and wives live inside bitter compromises. Conversations between families and old friends only consist of old routines that everyone's heard before, but pretends they never have, because real communication between them hasn't happened in years; a new subject ( the more morbid and shocking, the better) is an occasion for everyone to attest their self-importance, superior knowledge and general one-upmanship. "Perfect", model families have unresolved Oedipus complexes and harbor emotional monsters. The people of Pagford are only interested in themselves, but not out of self-love. Out of hatred for others. The quote that best captured them for me was one about the inability to perceive anything or anyone outside the tight, absurd routine of lives lived solely to uphold status, as real:
" You must accept the reality of other people.You think that reality is up for negotiation, that we think it's whatever you say it is. You must accept that we are as real as you are; you must accept that you are not God."

The book has a darker, more abject sphere of exploration (the drugs, paedophilia, self-mutilation, theft) which is further away from most our lives, but which is not less real. I cannot pretend that I know much about the everyday life of people affected by these inescapable issues, but the prose feels no less teeth-sinking accurate. And this is something this book has taught me and made me admit : I do not know,but I will no longer stand by when people who know equally little judge and condemn.
JK admits to having explored the two extremes of her life- the middle-class origins and the depressing and hopeless poverty she found herself in - through the lenses of her two obsessions, morality and death. She does that with her usual jeweler-like minutia, crafting prose and characters as carefully as the most precious gossamer fabric.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2012 8:58:07 PM PDT
C. Champeau says:
Best review I've seen so far - articulate and insightful. What's more, you say you learned something from the book, which is one of the loftiest goals of any kind of storytelling. This is the first review that gave me what I was looking for: a glimpse into what this book is *really* about.

Posted on Oct 20, 2012 7:40:11 AM PDT
Agree that this is one of the best reviews in the bunch. Thank you.

Posted on Oct 21, 2012 6:02:41 AM PDT
Really thought your review was the best of the ones I had read so far. As an x ray of small town Britain today I thought it was insightful and real, crude and harrowing but that´s something that we have to accept. This is not fantasy it´s fact. It was a well written, well researched and honest look at the middle England so many of us have escaped from, either in their dreams or on the next plane out. It was brave of Rawling to write this book, and I admire her for doing so. Here in Spain there is a saying "Pueblo pequeño, infierno grande", translated as "Small town, huge hell" and never better expressed than in this book. Well done JKR.

Posted on May 7, 2014 12:37:41 PM PDT
Excellent well-written review. Excellent book, deep honest character study, not idle entertainment
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