Books / Review

The Casual Vacancy

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


2 thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy

  1. Pingback: who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood? | YLBnoel's Blog

  2. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a
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