Jim's June/July 2013 picks, 1 of 3
If you were to approach this book eager for more Harry Potter magic, you will be shocked at what you find. Rowling seems to have unleashed with a fury the demons she held in check while writing about her boy-wizard and the world of Hogwarts. The controlled behavior of Ron, Hermione, and even Malfoy has been replaced with gritty reality. The story involves the aftermath of the death of a local teacher and town council member whose casual vacancy of the title must be filled; the question is who is going to fill it? The darkness hidden inside each of her characters oozes to the surface as the story progresses and at times it is hard to like anybody. Oddly the only character who seems likeable is dead. All of this may not come across as a recommendation for The Casual Vacancy, but here's the thing: after I had finished the book, I found myself returning to it to revisit certain events, like someone going back to gawk at the scene of a horrible accident. It is a wonderful thing she's done here, Ms. Rowling; she has created a story that is both compelling and repulsive at the same time. It haunts me even now.— From Jim's picks
Ryan's October 2012 pick
The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling’s new book for adults,The Casual Vacancy, is a dark, intense story that centers around a small town’s reaction to one man’s sudden death. This book is NOT FOR CHILDREN. The subject material becomes increasingly bleak and grim throughout the story, including such things as drug use, sex, abuse, rape, and death.
After Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, a small town is thrust into a local war as a campaign to fill his seat creates factions within the town and some of it’s member’s darkest secrets are revealed.
This story is incredibly written and unspeakably heart-wrenching. There are no secondary characters in this story; everyone has a back-story and a major part to play, from the upper-middle class citizens fighting to remove the blemish that is “The Fields” from their precious town, to the teenagers just trying to survive each day. These characters will become your friends and neighbors and enemies as you delve into the small town with dark roots beneath it’s pretty face.
The Casual Vacancy will tug at your heart strings and leave you feeling shocked and dismayed, but also refreshed and better for having read it. Rowling’s writing style is brilliant as always, and her passion for each character and their particular story really comes through. This book is incredible, despite it’s heavy subject matter. It’s a unique story written in a way that only J.K. Rowling could accomplish.
“Disgust rose in Samantha like vomit. She wanted to seize the over-warm cluttered room and mash it between her hands, until the royal china, and the gas fire, and the gilt-framed pictures of Miles broke into jagged pieces; then, with wizened and painted Maureen trapped and squalling inside the wreckage, she wanted to heave it, like a celestial shot-putter, away into the sunset. The crushed lounge and doomed crone inside it, soared in her imagination through the heavens, plunging into the limitless ocean, leaving Samantha alone in the endless stillness of the universe.”— From Ryan's picks
Praise for THE CASUAL VACANCY:
"I had come under the spell of a great novel....A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence....This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply."
"A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight."
"This book represents a truckload of shrewdness.... There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully....genuinely moving."
"A positively propulsive read."
-Wall Street Journal
"An insanely compelling page-turner....The Casual Vacancy is a comedy, but a comedy of the blackest sort, etched with acid and drawn with pitch....Rowling proves ever dexterous at launching multiple plot lines that roar along simultaneously, never entangling them except when she means to. She did not become the world's bestselling author by accident. She knows down in her bones how to make you keep turning the pages."
-The Daily Beast
"There are plenty of pleasures to be had in The Casual Vacancy....Parts of the story would be tonally of a piece with any Richard Price or Dennis Lehane novel, or an episode of The Wire."
"Rowling knows how to write a twisty, involving plot....She is clearly a skilled writer."
-The Huffington Post
"The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read....a stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today."
-The Mirror (UK)
"Rowling has written a grand novel...a very brave book."
-The Bookseller (UK)
"A study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot...The Casual Vacancy immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world...intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny."
-The Guardian (UK)
"The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling's first adult novel, is sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed....Jane Austen herself would admire the way [Rowling] shows the news of Barry's death spreading like a virus round Pagford."