Customer Review

1,664 of 1,798 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peyton Place meets PG Wodehouse. (Yes, I read it. No, I haven't read HP.), September 27, 2012
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This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Kindle Edition)
Throwing in my two cents as one of the few people on the planet who hasn't read the HP series. (My kids were the perfect age as the books came out: young enough to love them, old enough to read for themselves.) I pre-ordered THE CASUAL VACANCY and inhaled it the minute it hit my Kindle mainly (I will admit) because it's a remarkable moment of publishing history, but I was quickly drawn into the story. The characters are people I already know, because they are the people we all already know. In the end, I liked this book on its own merits. And I liked it a lot.

Rowling is a terrifically strong writer; you can't fault her on craft, and I like that she doesn't feel the need to do any acrobatics or post a billboard - THIS WAY TO THE BRILLIANT WRITER - on every page, as is the irritating case in a lot of literary fiction. If you're able to set aside the JK ROWLING of it all, you'll love or hate this book on the strength of what it says about people. Folks. Relationships that are the opposite of magic. Politics that are petty. The youthful compulsion to crusade - at any age - and the crusty compulsion to squash the crusading of others.

Early on, it's noted that Samantha "enjoyed [Miles'] pomposity with precisely the same spirit as she liked, on formal occasions, to wear a hat," and Rowling is able to enjoy the faults of these characters the same way. These are the characters Franzen would write if he had more tenderness and less literary dyspepsia. Observations about resonant, everyday dynamics - conversational currency, backhanded charity, the lie of self-sacrifice - are made with more wry than sly and not a whiff of self-righteousness.

This is a quiet book; some will say cozy, but I think there's enough edge to prevent that. I loved the dry Britcom humor. A thousand little understated zingers make THE CASUAL VACANCY a pleasure to read in the way that the Mapp and Lucia books are a pleasure. As life unravels for the people of Pagford, we have a goldfish bowl view, but that understated tone keeps things from going totally soapy.

A book that kept coming back to me as I read was Joseph Heller's Something Happened. I can't think of another instance where an author from whom so much was expected took on the profoundly risky task of reminding us that there is nothing more human than the mundane.
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Comments

Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 52 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 27, 2012 5:09:50 PM PDT
I enjoyed your review...thanks for taking the time to write something sensible :)

Posted on Sep 27, 2012 8:51:03 PM PDT
Audrey says:
THANK YOU!!! Finally, a (thoughtful, well-written, helpful) review of the *actual book*!

Posted on Sep 27, 2012 9:37:42 PM PDT
I'm about 50 pages in and I couldn't agree with you more; her brilliant style and quick-yet-accessible pacing is keeping me glued to the page, even while the beginnings of what I think will become a pretty dry and dark story reveal themselves...interested to see where it's all going...

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 12:30:27 AM PDT
Hurt says:
Very insightful review of the book. Thank you.

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 4:55:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 28, 2012 4:57:21 AM PDT
Hermione says:
What a great, thoughtful view of the actual book! Thank you for taking the time. I'm about 40% in and I have to say I agree with pretty much everything you said.

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 5:57:02 AM PDT
W. Peacock says:
"These are the characters Franzen would write if he had more tenderness and less literary dyspepsia."

Speaking as someone who is currently reading Franzen, this sentence made me cheer. You have convinced me that I still might like this book, despite the negative reviews that paint it as though Rowling had taken the same sort of career misstep with this book as Elizabeth Berkley did with Showgirls. Thank you.

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 7:02:18 AM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 8:48:38 AM PDT
Reader says:
Thank you for a real review! I used to be one of the rare people who had not read HP - I avoided them for almost 10 years and then read the first 6 all in a row (literally non-stop in about a week) right before the seventh came out. I was 30, I never usually read children's or young adult literature as some adults do, and I'm not into fantasy fiction. Yet, I loved them! They were amazingly well-written page turners.

My assessment upon reading the dust jacket of The Casual Vacancy was that it was like the British TV series Midsomer Murders, in writing. Your review seems to confirm that, and I look forward to reading the book.

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 8:52:10 AM PDT
J. Green says:
I have to say that I found the foibles of Map and Lucia charming. For some reason this book just felt very flat to me despite the fact that I wanted so very badly to like it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 28, 2012 8:59:38 AM PDT
saysaah says:
I found your comment interesting because for me, even though I'm not a big fan of Heller, found Something Happened the most brilliant accounting of upper middle class life that I have ever read. I still respect your opinion because I feel as you do about many so called "literary" books.
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