I really enjoyed the Harry Potter series. However, unlike my brother and my friend I, I’m not the hugest Harry Potter fan. I’ve never pre-ordered a book and I wouldn’t read the newest HP book as soon as it was released. I would read the latest Harry Potter during Holy Week. No special reason for it, I just did. I did not read the 6th and 7th books until the bar, and a year of work, and it did not kill me. With that said, I plunged into J.K Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”, her first foray into novels for adults (I know that sounds wrong, but “adult novel” makes it sound like she delved into writing erotica or something.) expecting/knowing that it would be well-written, but not a magical Harry Potter thing. I did was not expecting this book to change my life.
“The Casual Vacancy,” may be a little heavy for Rowling’s usual adult audience.The book is a neighborhood DRAMA. (Not epic tagalog telenovela drama, just regular drama). As a whole, it felt like I was “reading” a soap opera — Think “East Enders” with a healthy dash of “Skins” all in the “Midsomer Murders” setting. (I happen to LOVE “Midsomer Murders.”) In “The Casual Vacancy,” JK Rowling takes us to the less magical and fantastic Pagford Parish, a small divided town full of pride and people who don’t seem to like each other very much. Amazingly, despite the larger (more than 5) number of people involved in the central plot, Rowling manages to make you feel something for almost all of them — rage, compassion, pity, sympathy .… it’s all there, except love. There is no one to love in this book. Like — maybe, love — no.
My chief complaint is the pace.
The book is 512 pages long, and progresses in the following fashion –The first 40 % of the book begins with a big event, then moves on to introductions to people in the neighborhood. Oh there are so many people in the neighborhood, and the readers silently watch them go about their daily life for the next couple of pages. The following 10% hints at a brewing tempest among the Pagfordians. This is followed by the final 50% where shit hits the fan (finally!) and the story rolls on full speed till the end. The end wherein all persons in the neighborhood get what they deserve — well almost.
If not for my curiosity, and the fact that I had friends sort of relying on me to appraise the book for them. (“I’ll read it after you’re done with it. Take one for the team. Spare me potential disappointment.”), this book fails my 100 page test. In the first 100 pages — “A lot goes on, but nothing happens.” (Thank you Ben Lee.)
The first half was a struggle. It’s slow and had me thinking “Oh my god have something happen already! I’m so tired of omnisciently following these people around already!” It’s kind of like “Scott Pilgrm vs. the World” (movie) wherein you have to suffer through the first 10 minutes before the movie jumps off into awesomeness. The last 50% of the book was read in one go. The climax and subsequent events are well-paced. It got good enough to start ignoring people who were talking to me, and that continued till the end.
In sum, while “The Casual Vacancy” will definitely not make my favorite books of 2012 list, nor will I feel the urge to re-read it, it was not horrible. The story is heavy and filled with real world issues and struggles, but is presented in a manner that would probably appeal to those who enjoy a bit of gossip or armchair voyeurism. However, due to the extended “exposition / introductions,” even readers who pick up the book because they are Rowling fans, or are into small town gossip, may give up on the book before any actual action occurs.
(Taken from Weekendsinthecity.net)