Hardback: 503 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Little Brown
Source: Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentences: Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.
Review Quote: 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 )
Favourite Quote: “She navigated away from the Parish Council message board and dropped into her favorite medical website, where she painstakingly entered the words "brain" and "death" in the search box. The suggestions were endless. Shirley scrolled through the possibilities, her mild eyes rolling up and down, wondering to which of these deadly conditions, some of them unpronounceable, she owed her present happiness.”
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction (2012)
My Opinion: Sadly probably pretty near the mark when it comes to home truths about society today!
It was a relief to know that J.K. Rowling decided to to write a completely different kind of novel after her success with Harry Potter. Her first venture into the adult market has proved that she can write and entertain us in the real world as well as fantasy. I am actually not sure if I would have chosen to read this novel from the blurb had it been by an unknown author, but because it was written by J.K Rowling that was a different matter. She has always claimed that she uses real people as the basis of stories and this comes across with totally believable characters in 'The Casual Vacancy' which is an interesting bird's eye look into life in a small town in the UK, sadly probably pretty near the mark when it comes to home truths about society today! I was not surprised to read that the BBC are already planning an adaptation of the novel for television, where its realistic drama will come across well. The character development is excellent but the plot is purposely slow so it takes time and patience in your reading as you need to get to know the individuals personalities in this character driven novel.
The cast of characters is indeed long but then this is a story about an entire community and how the death of Barry Fairbrother, local councillor relates to the problems, personalities and politics of the different individuals. Everyone seems to be at war with someone highlighting the prejudices that truly exist in small towns all over the country. Set in the fictional village of Pagford, the story hinges on a council election, the outcome of which will decide whether a whether a council estate called the Fields remains part of the village or becomes part of a neighbouring town. Rich versus poor, teenagers versus parents, married couples versus each other and teachers versus pupils. There is indeed plenty of anguish to keep you entertained in this 503 page novel as the inhabitants of Pagford face up to each other over this Casual Vacancy. Be warned though that there are not many light moments, there is lots of bad language and no happy ending, so in conclusion another great read from J.K. Rowling but definitely for older readers.
A very interesting article was recently published in The New Statesmen in defence of the novel.
J.K.Rowling interview where she reads first paragraph. (No spoilers)
J.K. Rowling (Joanne “Jo” Rowling) was born in in Yate, South Gloucestershire, England, on July 31, 1965 and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent. Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, her course including one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London and worked as a researcher at Amnesty International among other jobs. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a delayed Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel of the best selling Harry Potter series. The series gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies and has been the basis for a popular series of films. Equally famous for her “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living on benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated her fortune at £560 million, ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in Britain. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and the Children’s High Level Group. Rowling’s mother died of multiple sclerosis, and because of this she became severely depressed for a period of time. In 2012, her first novel for adults The Casual Vacancy was published. It won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction. She now lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children. Her full biography and details of her previous books can be found on her official website here.
The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.
Goodreads Author Profile J.K.Rowling - Official Author Website BBC Announcement
New Statesman YouTube Video