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The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy

Book rating: 03 Hardback

By (author) J. K. Rowling

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  • Publisher: Little, Brown
  • Format: Hardback | 512 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 236mm x 43mm | 839g
  • Publication date: 27 September 2012
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 140870420X
  • ISBN 13: 9781408704202
  • Sales rank: 326

Product description

When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

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Author information

J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, translated into 74 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. She has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry’s schoolbooks within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group, and quickly became the fastest selling book of the year. As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University USA. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children

Customer reviews

By Lara House 31 Jan 2013 4

This book is well worth reading.... I agree the first 30% is hard going (even a little boring at times despite its wonderful language) but do persevere as all that character building and scene setting comes together and becomes a very interesting story. I thought the internal dialogue of all the many and varied characters was fascinating and a total credit to the author. The story was a bit like a tragic soap opera playing out in a small town but the attitudes and issues were very real and relevant. I'd give it 5 stars except for the slow start!

By Imre Aladi 21 Dec 2012 5

I don't know what's people's problem with this novel, I thought it was awesome. The story was starting slowly,but overall really good and the characters were well-written, as always :D

By John Swinburne 08 Nov 2012 1

I found the book complex and
confusing in its "plot"
and overall boring. After the style
of earlier books seriously disappointing.
I gave up about one third though and
gave the book to charity. I wouldn't
purchase another of JK's books.

By Psych Babbler 29 Oct 2012 5

From my blog: http://www.overacuppacoffee.com/book-reviewthe-casual-vacancy/

Welcome to the town of Pagford. An idyllic and beautiful place where everyone knows everyone. But while on the surface Pagford is an epitome of goodness, upon closer examination, this is certainly not the case. Barry Fairbrother, a local councillor, dies of a stroke in his 40s. As a result, his council seat is left vacant and must be filled. His death also influences the little community in different ways.

For starters, there is his family that he leaves behind: his wife Mary, and children Fergus, Niamh, Siobhan and Declan. Two of his closest friends are also distraught at his death: Colin 'Cubby' Wall and Gavin Hughes. They each deal with it differently; Colin whose anxiety disorder increases in severity and Gavin, trying to avoid it all. Colin receives support from his wife Tessa Wall who is also Mary's best friend but none from his adopted son Stuart 'Fats' Wall. Gavin on the other hand, is stuck in a relationship (with Kay Bawden, a social worker who moved to Pagford from London with her daughter Gaia to be with Gavin) he does not want to be in and uses the Fairbrothers as a way to escape. Then there's Dr Parminder Jawanda, another councillor and the local GP who got along well with Barry and has difficulty coming to terms with her death. While attempting to help everyone else, she is oblivious to the pains of her youngest daughter Sukhvinder.

Barry's death has the opposite effect on Howard Mollinson, who is also on the local council and akin to a mayoral status. He and his wife Shirley could not be more pleased given that Barry was fighting a cause against what Howard wanted. Howard's son Miles is hoping to stand for Barry's vacant seat along with Colin and another Pagford resident, Simon Price. Miles is nothing short of a mama's boy while Simon is a domestic violence perpetrator towards his wife Ruth and children Andrew and Paul, as well as a small-time thug.

Finally, despite most people not realising it, Barry's death has also affected one other person deeply: Krystal Weedon. A 16 year old in the same school and year as Barry's twin daughters, Sukhvinder, Fats, Andrew and Gaia. Unlike the others, Krystal doesn't live in Pagford. She lives in a housing estate in The Fields which despite being in the neighbouring falls in the Pagford local district. She lives with her junkie mother Terri who falls off the wagon of her methadone program at Bellchapel clinic several times and her younger brother Robbie.

The Casual Vacancy follows the journey of all of the above individuals and those related to them. It follows the repercussions after Barry's death and all that he was fighting for. The main thing being continuing to include The Fields as part of the local district and continue to have Bellchapel running. Something which Howard Mollinson and his cronies did not want.

Now, after giving you that massive summary, let me talk about my views about the book.

I LOVED IT!

I loved the manner in which the characters were all set out, each which their quirks and most with shades of grey. Some were possibly more despicable (Howard Mollinson and Simon Price, for instance), some positive all over (Tessa Wall and Kay Bawden for instance) while others were complex and intriguing (Krystal, Sukhvinder, Colin, Fats, Andrew, Gaia to name a few). More than the plot, the focus is on the characters. How each of them think. How each of them feel. How each of them behave. And most importantly, how each of them tries to survive whatever is thrown at them. As I read the book, I felt a range of emotions: happiness, sadness, despair, disgust, helplessness, anger and frustration to name a few. I laughed. I smirked. I shook my head. I cried.

Rowling has done a fantastic job in her first book for adults. I was worried I'd be comparing it to Harry Potter. But you know what? A few pages into the book and Potter and his world were kicked out of my head. Despite Pagford being a make-believe place, it could easily pass off for society today. I loved the teenagers with their complexities. I think Rowling has got into their psyches perfectly. I see clients like Sukhvinder and Krystal and Fats. And I think that made the book hit closer to home for me. The pain they go through in different ways, the struggles with their identity and of course, the difficult upbringings and attachments all lead them to cope in a variety of ways. Krystal uses casual sex, Sukhvinder uses deliberate self-harm, and Fats with his desire to be 'authentic' in order to rebel. Rowling has described Colin's anxiety disorder perfectly and once again, it is so realistic and gives you a great insight into what mental health is like for some people. Howard's attitude is pretty much what you would see with people in society these days too. They don't understand drug and alcohol abuse. They don't understand the need for clinics that dose out methadone to drug addicts. All they see is people falling off the wagon. They don't see that success in mental health and drug health is defined differently.

I know Rowling has copped a lot of flak for this book. I still don't know why. Some people were offended by the sex and the swearing. It didn't bother me one bit because that's what society is like. Teenagers do have sex. Adults do have sex. As for swearing, well, to me it's just like another word, possibly because I do it too.

I could go on and on about how great this book is. J. K. Rowling has in fact gone up even higher in estimation for me (she already was way up there) with the manner in which she has covered serious social issues and mental health issues in this book. They are all very realistic and beautifully portrayed. Her writing style as always is impeccable. You get the accents and the mannerisms and all the nuances in between. If there was one gripe for me, it's the cover. Not a fan of the cover. :) There were 500 pages in this book. 500 pages of a wonderful journey into people's minds.

Thank you again for this masterpiece J. K. Rowling!

By emma 25 Oct 2012 4

I must admit I was not expecting much from this book. Expecting it to be so different from the Harry potter series that I would not connect.
But I loved it, yes it is nothing like her original work.
J.K has managed to write an adults novel that makes you forget that it's being written by a writer of children's books.
I found the casual vacancy to be extremely engaging. Coming up to the end of it I could not put it down.
Beautifully written and a truly great story.

Review quote

This is a wonderful novel. JK Rowling's skills as a storyteller are on a par with RL Stevenson, Conan Doyle and PD James. Here, they are combined with her ability to create memorable and moving characters to produce a state-of-England novel driven by tenderness and fury Melvyn Bragg, The Observer A needle-sharp and darkly comic expose of today's class-ridden society ... A highly readable morality tale for our times Emma Lee-Potter, Daily Express The Casual Vacancy is a stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today. [J.K. Rowling] has done a rather brave thing and pulled it off magnificently Henry Sutton, The Mirror One marvels at the skill with which Rowling weaves such vivid characters in and out of each other's lives Christopher Brookmyre, The Daily Telegraph Heartbreaking - turning the page seems unbearable, but not as much as putting down the book would be Deepti Hajela, Associated Press An exquisite and occasionally moving black comedy ... The acid test - I suspect it would do well even if its author's name weren't J.K. Rowling David Robinson, Scotsman A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England ... This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply Lev Grossman, Time Magazine Insightful, meaningful, daring and resolutely challenging to tabloid assumptions regarding the moral worth of individuals Scotland on Sunday The action bowls along compellingly, most of the characters are vividly drawn and there are some sharp - often very sharp - observations about their social pretensions ... a bold and distinctive effort The Sunday Telegraph This is a novel of insight and skill, deftly drawn and, at the end, cleverly pulled together. It plays to her strengths as a storyteller The Economist The Casual Vacancy is a brilliant novel, entertaining, intelligent, moving, passionate and hard-hitting; touching on familiar subjects but approaching them with great originality and skill. Moreover, it's unputdownable ... The novel is a triumph Irish Times Rowling is a great storyteller with a clear eye and a warm heart, and The Casual Vacancy is a moving and immensely pleasurable novel Sunday Business Post Ireland