Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Casual Vacancy Hardcover – September 27, 2012
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
On the face of it, Rowling's first adult book is very different from the Harry Potter books that made her rich and famous. It's resolutely unmagical: the closest thing to wizardry is the ability to hack into the amateurish Pagford Parish Council Web site. Instead of a battle for worldwide domination, there's a fight over a suddenly empty seat on that Council, the vacancy of the title. Yet despite the lack of invisibility cloaks and pensieves, Pagford isn't so different from Harry's world. There's a massive divide between the haves and those pesky have-nots—the residents of the Fields, the council flat that some want to push off onto Yarvil, the county council nearby. In tiny Pagford, and at its school, which caters to have and have-nots alike, everyone is connected: teenager Krystal Weedon, the sole functioning member of her working-class family, hooks up with the middle-class son of her guidance counselor; the social worker watching over Krystal's troubled mother dates the law partner of the son of the dead Councilor's fiercest Council rival, who also happens to be the best friend of Councilor Barry Fairbrother; Krystal's great-grandmother's doctor was Fairbrother's closest ally; the daughters of the doctor and the social worker work together, along with the best friend of Krystal's hookup; and so on. When Fairbrother—born in Fields but now a middle-class Pagforder and one of the few people who can deal with the obstreperous Krystal—dies suddenly, the fight gets uglier. Rowling is relentlessly competent: all these people and their hatreds and hopes are established and mixed together. Secrets are revealed, relationships twist and break, and the book rolls toward its awful, logical climax with aplomb. As in the Harry Potter books, children make mistakes and join together with a common cause, accompanied here by adults, some malicious, some trying yet failing. Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren't much fun. Agent: The Blair Partnership. (Sept. 27)
J. K. Rowling has said that she considered writing The Casual Vacancy under a pseudonym. Had she done so, Rowling probably would have learned what it’s like to be a midlist author—unpublicized, unnoticed, and unhappy. Like many midlist titles, this one is perfectly fine, but in no way outstanding. Set in Pagford, a picturesque West Country village, this very British book has a clever, if arcane, centerpiece: a casual vacancy, an opening on the village council. When Barry Fairbrother drops dead of an aneurysm, his death sets off a chain reaction. A strong supporter of keeping a poor council estate as part of Pagford (he grew up there), Fairbrother is opposed by a smug, controlling businessman (Vernon Dursley, writ small) who wants to rid the village of the “undesirables.” Fairbrother’s demise causes a crisis at the council and in the personal lives of many, including a teenager to whom he gave a helping hand. As everyone knows, Rowling is very good at creating worlds, and here she effectively shows the stifling (for some) and satisfying (for others) constraints of village life. Somewhat less successful are her characters, who wouldn’t seem out of place in a British soap opera: not surprisingly, it’s her several teen characters, the tortured and the torturers, who jump most from the page. As for her prose, well, that was never Rowling’s strong suit, and it lumbers more than it soars. To give credit where it’s due, one of the world’s richest women wrote her book and is willing to take the critical lumps when she didn’t have to do anything more than stay home and count her money. She must like to write. --Ilene Cooper
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
That said, "The Casual Vacancy" is a disturbing character study. It is written in third-person omniscient point of view. It does require some effort to handle a story with some 18 or so viewpoint characters, so this book will be at too high a reading level for some. I normally don't like the omniscient POV, but this story had to be told that way and Rowling handles it with expertise.
So, what is this book about? It is about pain and cruelty and why people become cruel. There are no traditional protagonists or antagonists, just people going through life. Rowling explores the various ways that people become cruel, angry, or jaded with each main character showing a different form of cruelty and a different reason for it. And, this book is about the people that get hurt by other people's pain and anger.
This isn't an easy book to read, probably the reason so many have reviewed it negatively. But, this is a brilliantly written book, just not for everyone.
This novel is written with a seldom-seen narrative structure. In this structure the story begins with a simple, perhaps commonplace, connection between a group of people (in this case, someone dies, which has some effect on each of these characters). The narrative then explores how each character's life led him or her to be present for that connecting event and then the character moves on past the single event. As this structure is used for a character study, the connecting event may not even be particularly important. Instead, we see a collection of interconnected characters as the main thrust of the novel, rather than a single story unfolding. In this case, we follow how the death at the beginning of the novel affects approximately 18 characters.
I highly recommend this book to those who want to read something thought-provoking and actually about the real world. But, if you want some light reading that you don't have to think about, then stay away from "The Casual Vacancy".
To those who reviewed it negatively because it wasn't like Harry Potter, I can only ask whether they were paying attention. Rowling explored many of these themes, hidden behind the window dressing of fantasy, in those books. That is why Harry Potter was not just another of the countless stories about magical children. She continues this exploration in "The Casual Vacancy", but without the magic and without the restrictions of children's literature.
Edited to add: I realize that Rowling has described this as a dark comedy. I don't know why she has said that. Perhaps she had intended this to be a comedy, and there are some satirical scenes, but it grew into something else as she developed and revised it. Whatever the case, I saw very little that was humorous in this book. I did greatly appreciate the book, but I don't know why she would claim it was a comedy, dark or otherwise.
The basic summary: a vacancy has opened at city counsel, prompting a nasty battle for the empty seat between those who want to help their poor- often drug-addled neighbors, and those who would push them out of town forever. This story is told through the eyes of nearly every character in the book.
None of the characters are likeable, but I actually enjoyed that aspect of it. Too often authors have a few "good" characters trying to counteract the actions of the "bad" characters. None of these characters were "good". I especially loved that each time a different person was focused on, we got their interpretation and opinion of events and other characters. It was interesting to see everyone's view of themselves followed by others' view of them, a wonderful addition to the realism and anti-fantasy of the novel.
The storyline was slow, comical at times, and mostly dreary. This certainly isn't a Hallmark movie or fairytale. There are no second chances and actions do have consequences. The contrast between the petty worries of the upper class and the raw, disturbing reality of the lower class is expertly written and thought-provoking. Yet despite the miserable, depressing ending, I couldn't help but falling in love with this book. Life can be miserable and depressing, so why shouldn't literature capture that?
I admit, I struggled through the first 30% because I hadn't read up on the plot before I purchased the book. However, once I got past that 30%, I couldn't put it down. I recommend people go into this book with an open mind and not try to make this novel anything different than it is.
The first thing is that even when people are saying that they are not comparing this novel to Harry Potter, they clearly are. Harry Potter is a fantasy series that is heavily plot driven and was originally targeted at children. The Casual Vacancy is a book based on several months in one setting focusing on the lives of a group of people. So my first piece of advice is read the blurb. J. K. Rowling clearly defined what this book was about from the very beginning; so if you are not someone who will enjoy this genre of novel, even if you do love Rowling, don't read it. It is not comparable in anyway to Harry Potter, so why are people who obviously do not like books dealing with current issues and want to read about some hero overcoming evil bothering to read it at all.
Secondly I have read a lot of people complaining about the characters because they are not likeable. I, however, found them very entertaining and am sad to have parted with them. They are not likeable in the sense that I approve of their actions and I think they are good people, but they are extremely vivid characters that you feel like you know and can envisage perfectly. The characters are all quite self-centred and fail to think about anything other than their own betterment. Why is everyone whining about this? Am I the only person who has had any experience with people in the real world? Many, many people are like this. Their world revolves around "the self", they are wrapped up in a tight little bubble of "me, me, me" and do not see the ways in which they could improve the lives of others. So even if they are unlikeable, their concerns and attitudes (after learning of their personal life circumstances) are actually quite realistic.
It is through these characters and their self-centredness that Rowling explores many current issues that are very contentious and I feel like she does this very well and very realistically. Not every protagonist is made of sunshine and rainbows, and when Rowling released this book she made it clear that it was not about a hero on a mission. This book is about everyday people dealing with everyday issues and their lives in a small town. Even if the characters are not likeable they all have something that can be related too. She deals with issues like abuse, neglect, health issues, marriage and relationships, first loves, suicide, people on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum and many others. If such topics are not ones that interest you then this book is not for you. I feel that too many people have picked this up simply because she is J. K. Rowling; so make sure that you are interested in the matters she is dealing with here before reading it. Perhaps a pen name would have invited better feedback because then people would have read this book because of the story, rather than the author.
Despite the very different type of tale this is to Harry Potter it still carries Rowling's wonderful way with words. She describes things vividly and callously and she makes the town and the people come to life. After reading this book I feel like I know Pagford so well that I should stop by there next time I am in England, even though it is a fictional town. This is how well she describes it. She uses her usual humour to make boring situations interesting and descriptions of plain things exciting.
I feel that J. K. Rowling should be given the full credit she deserves for writing this book. It is an individual entity and deserves to be judged as such. Readers need to stop comparing this to Harry Potter or J. K. Rowling and just take it for what it is. So please, rather than reading it because of the author and then giving poor feedback because it wasn't for you, acknowledge what this book is actually about before you pick it up.
Personally, I found it to be a very interesting read and it has provided me with many things to think about regarding today's society in Western countries.