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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling: Review


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Let me begin by stating that I have NOT read any of the Harry Potter books, nor watched any of the movies, except the first one, which was the only one I kind of liked. I tried watching the rest, but they were too kiddish for me and I was not at all interested. Just to let you know, I think I may pick it up after all and try giving it a read.

The reason I made this clarification is that anyone I have spoken to about J K Rowling’s other book, The Casual Vacancy, or any review I have read of the same, seem to be a comparison discussion. Sadly, no one seems to have a singular opinion about just this one book.

Another thing I wish to clarify before I move on to The Casual Vacancy is that I do not have anything against the Harry Potter series, but I am really irritated at the fact that just because people have enjoyed it and J K Rowling has now written something entirely different, they are all hell bent on putting it down.

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling is the first book I read by this author (the second being The Cuckoo’s Calling which was written under the pseudonym Robert Gilbraith.)

The book came out in 2012 and there was a huge controversy surrounding the same, as it was widely believed that the book was kind of autobiographical, and the locals of the village which was supposedly depicted in the novel were extremely upset at the way their lives had been shared in the book.

The entire controversy surrounding the book was what initially convinced me to give this author a try, one who had created a series (Harry Potter) that I wasn’t interested in at all.


Though readers have trashed the book in many places and book bloggers seem to be all out there, trying to show down J K Rowling’s adult book (I really feel bad for these readers as they can’t seem to grow out of the kiddie world of Harry Potter magic and come into the real world), The Casual Vacancy has been a much appreciated work.
  • The book was the fastest selling book in the UK in three years
  • It had the second best-selling opening week in the UK since Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol
  • It set a Goodreads record for all-time biggest ‘started reading’ day
  • It won the Goodreads best fiction category in the Goodreads Choice Award 2012
  • It was the 15th best-selling book of 2012 during the first week of release
You can of course choose to ignore the above facts, but it remains true that The Casual Vacancy is brilliantly written, and reading this book was what made me read her other grown up book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith (as J K Rowling did not want unnecessary comparisons to Harry Potter – which seemed a smart choice, as the book did stupendously well, so much so that once it was lapped up by readers, it was revealed that the real author was J K Rowling! Hahhaha…now that is what I meant when I say a book should also be judged on its own merit.)

It looks like I can’t seem to say enough about the book, so without further ado, let’s move on to the details:

Here is the link to the first post I did about the book while I was still reading it Loving the book!


Details about the book:


Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: J K Rowling
Publishers: Little, Brown and Company
No of pages: 503

Year published: 2012

Summary:

This is a pic of Yate, Gloucestershire. It is said that the fictional town of Pagford that is created in the novel The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling is actually based on this town and its people. This is also the birth place of the author

The story is set in the town of Pagford. It begins with the sudden death of the local Parish Councillor. This means that the council now has a vacant seat and needs to be filled up. Thus the title Casual Vacancy. The elections will be coming soon and the town starts fighting a silent and sometimes visible political and social battle about who should be elected to that seat of power. There are groups made, people are divided in their choice and friendships and relationships start getting tested.

The twist begins when those who are running for the seat find that their darkest secrets have been revealed on the online forum of the Parish Coucil. This ruins their chances of winning, and creates much havoc and embarassment in their personal lives.

There are a lot of different themes that one comes across in the story, beginning from politics to poverty and prostitution to class differences to immigration issues to racism, social issues and more.

My take on the book

The book is amazingly written. From the first page itself, you feel as if you are standing on the street where the incidents are taking place and witnessing everything on your own. Another thing I felt at many places in the novel was feeling as if I was standing on a quiet street of a neighbourhood, outside the lit window of some home, and looking in on the characters inside, seeing what is going on in the privacy of their home.

The book manages to give you that kind of a glimpse into the lives of the characters. It takes you right inside the book, on those streets and inside those homes of Pagford, and you are a silent and invisible entity in the story, just a quiet spectator.

I absolutely loved the way J K Rowling weaves in the characters. There are a huge number of important characters in the story and there is a lot of inter-mixing of the story and parallel lives. But never for a moment do you feel any confusion. The story is written in a very clear tone, creating many turns and twists, but always very easy to follow.

What I also love about the book is that though it is set in a sleepy little town, there is never a dull moment. It is absolutely riveting and kept me hooked on. I think I finished it in about 2-3 days, especially as I had other work and was not able to give it more time. I wanted to gulp it down in big chunks and find out what was going on and was about to happen.

With so many characters taking up space, the author does a fine job of giving each one a prominent voice and enough space to mature. So it is that you get a chance to understand all the characters and to see their point of view. No one is given undue importance in terms of story space, and no one is left out.

Another really good thing that I liked was the fact that the author was able to correctly depict the various characters, who are a mix of various social classes and races. When you read about a particular character, you feel you are looking into their culture and way of living, and same with others.

All in all I felt it was a very balanced writing, a story that becomes something way bigger than when it actually started. The lives of the protagonists goes through constant turns and shifts, and even when the story or the events are dull, the writing isn't.

I absolutely loved the book and am super excited to check out the BBC adaptation series that is going to come out this year (2014.)

This is one of those books that I have highly recommended to friends and will read all over again :-)

I would definitely ask you to read it, if you already haven't.

I give it 5 hearts.... AWESOME AND A MUST-READ!


- Debolina Raja Gupta