Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling is best known for writing the Harry Potter series: a series that was written for teen readers and was enjoyed by many adults as well. (Harry Potter and his friends take us on an adventure filled with excitement and intrigues in a fantasy land that we know does not exist in reality.) While browsing the bookshelves of our local library, I came across The Casual Vacancy, the novel Rowling had written after the well-known Harry Potter stories. A book written for adults, I had heard mutterings that it was not as good as her previous work. I do not always pay attention to what critics say, however, and picked up the copy to decide for myself.

From the first pages, I was reminded what a good writer Rowling is. One tends to forget this simple fact when the media hype for the Harry Potter series overshadows her talent. The book begins with a pivotal event in the novel and, immediately, the reader is drawn into the story. There is no explanation of why, when, or even where. Instead the situation just is – and as a reader, one accepts it.

The story is set in the English town of Pagford. After the unexpected death of one of its councillors, various people within the town react to the vacuum of power that has been left behind. We are given a peak into the lives of residents who have lived only in the idyllic town: teens, teachers, moms and dads; those with enough money, and those without; those who are content with their lives, and those who wish to break away from the rut they find themselves in. Rowling’s description of the characters she introduces us to are realistic – and the actions they take are in line with their personalities. As a reader, I ached for some – and wished vengeance on others. I cried at times, and sighed with relief when I realised that some would get their happy ending.

Rowling depicts the nitty-gritty of the human personality: the good and the ugly. Her plot is authentic and the growth of some characters realistic. The novel portrays a snapshot into the lives many of us could be living – with all its ups and downs, as well as all its mistakes. I enjoyed reading this story and the next adult novel I see published by this author, I will pick up with no hesitation.

Have you read any of Rowling’s novels?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014


34 thoughts on “Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

  1. This book is on my TBR list. I always considered J.K. Rowling as a writer worth reading, therefore I am really looking forward to reading ‘The Casual Vacancy’.


  2. I’ve read the Potter books and loved them. Haven’t read this yet, but it’s on my list. I hear it can be dark, but I like dark. And she’s a great writer.


  3. I have this book on my reading list, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Hopefully I’ll find it at my local library soon. I have read the Harry Potter series. I was almost sad when it finished, wondering what I was going to do without Harry Potter in my life. I read them all in a row just a year or so ago, and watched the movies as I went along, so I was thoroughly immersed in the world Rowling had created.


  4. I find your perspective most interesting, though your conclusions differ from my own. Mind you, I have never regarded her writing as highly as I do her invention.
    From what I have read of the book, the writing here is also mainly workmanlike but unexceptional. I notice that she and her editors are guilty of leaving rather clumsy dangling modifiers.
    My interest flagged quickly until it got to the youngsters. Some of the characters really seem stilted.
    All in all I don’t think it is a book I would wish to buy.


    1. It must be this that some of the published critics of her novel saw. When I began reading the novel, I do admit to being surprised by how well the first pages were written. Thereafter, my interest in the story was captured.


      1. Well that is good to hear. Did you read her novel that was under an assumed name ??? I wondered what that was like, seeing as it got to the bestseller list before people knew it was JK.


  5. I have this book on my shelf for ages, just haven’t got to it yet. The story is not something I would normally be interested in, but because Rowling has written it, I do want to give it a try.


  6. Well, there appear to be a couple of us who’ve never read her Harry Potters. They’ve just never appealed to me and I can live without the movies too. That doesn’t mean to say that she isn’t a great writer, and I wouldn’t mind reading this one, Colline. I’m not big on “fantasy” so this is probably more my cup of tea. 🙂


  7. An even better read is The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (who is JK Rowling) I cannot wait for the next in this series! It has to be a series!!! Amazing stuff. I had no interest in Harry Potter, but really enjoyed the other JK! Liz


    1. I think it is because they expected her to write something along the lines of the Harry Potter series. This book is definitely not fantasy – and is only really for adult readers. I would not pass it onto my teenage daughters. I personally enjoyed the story very much and found it to be very realistic.


  8. Hi Colline, I am an avid reader and usually have a look at most good writers, however the Harry Potter scenario, movies/revues , turned me off believing she was a writer of worth apart from fairytales, I will make a point of checking out the book that you have written the revue on.


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