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Review of The Casual Vacancy

Updated on October 9, 2012

JK Rowlings New Book

JK Rowling's eagerly awaited first novel for adults is out at last, and The Casual Vacancy is worth the wait. A complex story with many characters, it takes a while to sort them out as the book dissects the detailed psychology of a small town adjusting to accommodate the unexpected loss of a courageous, respected citizen who has quietly transformed the lives of nearly everyone who knows him.

Barry Fairbrother's sudden death of brain aneurism in the golf course parking lot on the day of his wedding anniversary leaves a vacancy on the Parish Council where he has been spearheading support to keep the impoverished housing estate of Fields, a breeding ground for drugs, prostitution and vice, within the boundaries of the village of Pagford. The issue has deeply divided the community.

JK Rowling

In 2010 on a tour promoting Harry Potter, JK Rowling was already thinking about her next novel, The Casual Vacancy, for adults.
In 2010 on a tour promoting Harry Potter, JK Rowling was already thinking about her next novel, The Casual Vacancy, for adults. | Source

From the Author of Harry Potter

Did you read the Harry Potter books?

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Parallel Universes like Muggle and Magical

As the novel explores the parallel universes of denizens of a small town, who cross paths daily yet rarely see the truth of each other nor understand, readers will be reminded of the parallel worlds of Muggle and Magic from the Harry Potter universe, where the physical manifestations can be the same yet the experience differs depending on which platform one stands on and which train one catches.

Just as it takes an act of the heart to run through an apparently solid brick wall and break through to Platform 9 and 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express, so Barry Fairbrother's death touches everyone, but instigates a different chain of incidents with varying shades of meaning. For Colin Wall it is a chance to face inner fears of mental illness and live out his own ideals by completing Barry's goal. For Simon Price it is a way to benefit from opportunities for graft through a position of public trust. For 16-year old Krystal Weedon, growing up in Fields as primary caregiver to her baby brother Robbie, and virtually abandoned by their mother who spirals into heroin addiction, Barry's death means the loss of her friend and mentor, and a pillar of hope for her way out of Fields.

The Casual Vacancy

JK Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy,  is a tapestry of greed, lust, envy, rage and love in a small town.
JK Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy, is a tapestry of greed, lust, envy, rage and love in a small town. | Source

What Did You Think of The Casual Vacancy?

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of JK Rowling's book The Casual Vacancy

JK Rowlings dry sardonic tone, social irony, and understated compassion light her characters from within. The lively, carefully rounded teens explore sex, drugs, and burgeoning independence through first jobs, conflict with parents and life-shattering guilty acts, while the middle aged characters grapple mid-life spread, lost zest in marriage, business failure, and their own approaching death.

Along the way she touches on themes of corruption, racism, class conflict, addiction, cyber bullying, obssessive-compulsive disorder, depression, self-mutilation and how the experience of our own guilt makes forgiveness possible when those we love err.

Don't miss this one.

It had me crying on the last page, where tragedy and triumph intersect.

JK Rowling Biography

  • J.K. Rowling was born on July 31, 1965, in Chipping Sodbury, England
  • graduated from Exeter Universtiy, then moved to Portugal in 1990, where she taught English.
  • married Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes, and their daughter was born in 1993.
  • Returning to England after her marriage ended, she struggled in poverty to raise her daughter as a single parent and continue to write her book about the boy wizard with the lightning-shaped scar.
  • In 1996 she published Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone after it had been rejected by several publishers.
  • The first three Harry Potter Books became best sellers, and took the first three spots in the New York Times List of Bestsellers in 2000. Over 35 million books were in print in 35 languages.
  • By 2007, when the seventh and final Harry Potter Book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, JK Rowlings had become one of the richest people in England, richer even that the Queen.
  • While touring to promote each of the novels and the movies that were made from them, Rowling continued to write.
  • In September 2012 she published her first book for adults, The Casual Vacancy.
  • JK Rowling has received many awards, including the Carnegie Medal in 1998 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal again in 2000 for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • She received the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 2001 for her service to children's literature.

JK Rowling Announces the Casual Vacancy


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    • Dina Blaszczak profile image

      Dina Blaszczak 4 years ago from Poland

      After I finished reading "The Casual Vacancy" yesterday, I said to my husband: "Rowling is a genius writer, no wonder she is loved so much!" Yes, I enjoyed the book very much!

      I love thrillers, but I also love quiet novels like this one. I also watched a few video interviews with J.K. Rowling about "The Casual Vacancy" and I'm pleased to be among those, who got the message she put in the book :)

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 5 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Thanks for this review Janis. I've just finished the book and found it somewhat tedious in parts. I was expecting more action, not of the magic kind, and it wasn't until the last 100 pages or so, that I felt JK hit her stride with the book. Your review has shown me other aspects that I disregarded while reading. Thanks! Liked and shared.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      What else is on your list to read right now, Music and Art? I have been reading non-fiction for the past several years, and am just getting back into reading novels. I don't have a list, though. I just go with what my reading friend passes to me, or what jumps off a shelf, as this one did... although, in fact, I had been waiting for this and knew it was coming out in early October.

    • Music-and-Art-45 profile image

      Music-and-Art-45 5 years ago from USA, Illinois

      Nice review, I always enjoyed the way Rowling did social commentary, and I'm glad she is going to continue doing that outside of Harry Potter... so I'm glad you mentioned that. I'm probably going to read this book when it comes out on softcover, I have a long list of books to get through now, but this review has convinced me that this should be worth reading. Thanks.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Well, Janis, after reading a flurry of bad reviews, I decided to leave this book on the shelf. But, I respect your opinion more than that of the many strange reviewers so you have talked me into giving it a read. I'll just need to wait for a sale. LOL Thanks for the review. It was very helpful.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      Susan, Jellygator, Julie DeNeen and Natasha, thank you for your comments! I hope you get time soon to read it, when you can take a break from writing hubs.

      Relationshipspc, it is a shift for her, as Jellygator pointed out, and sometimes the old audience wants more of the same. She is such a dynamic writer, though, and this novel is substantial. The star ratings will pick up, and it is definitely worth reading and making up your own mind.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I am pretty excited to read this! Now I just have to find the time.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      I can't wait to read it!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      Interesting. It'll be quite a shift for her.

    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I was doing some research on Amazon, and I noticed that The Casual Vacancy had more 1 star reviews than 5 star reviews. I've never seen that before! And it's not what I expected from a book by J.K. Rowling. So, I wasn't sure how good it would be, but after reading your review, I want to check it out. I'm confused! lol

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sounds like a great book and I look forward to reading it.

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      The Harry Potter books are worth the read--they are not just for children. along the lines of Alice in Wonderland or the Chronicles of Narnia, they can be read on many levels.

      Start with this one, though!!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      I haven't actually read the Potter books, but I have seen the films. Might try this one, it sound interesting!

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      I am so glad it inspired you to read the book. Rowling is a gifted storyteller. Enjoy it during the holidays when you have time to get lost in it and not come out until the end.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      This is such a great review! Thanks so much and I will ask for this for Christmas. Pinning, etc. Nice one!

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      I will do that!

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      Hi Cat, Hope you can enjoy it soon. Let me know. Come back and rate it with stars.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Janis,

      Can't wait to read this one! Enjoyed your synopsis and review :) Thank you.


    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 5 years ago

      Hi donnah75! I know that for many children Harry Potter was what catalyzed their reading. Rowling writes with such economy and density, so her books have meaning on so many levels. There is always a touch of humour with how she views life, with all the darkness. That's what makes her a classic. I hope you have time to read The Casual Vacancy soon.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      When I first saw a Harry Potter book, I was teaching in England. I had a student who couldn't put that book down in a classroom full of kids who you would never characterize as readers. I knew then that JK Rowling must be one amazing author. I am so glad she is going to have a hit with her new book, as the pressure to produce a "win" after the HP series must have been enormous. I will definitely be reading this book. Thanks for reminding me that she put this book out, and for writing a great review. Voted up and sharing.