The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

Slight change to my TBR, I first read this when The Casual Vacancy was released, and while I wasn’t in the blogging community then, there was at least a press hype about it since obviously any book after the Harry Potter series would have a massive amount of excitement and curiosity about it. I had to re-read it for my book club this month so thought I would include it as my Thunder Badge book.


When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. 
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.


I didn’t know what to expect from this book before I read it. The synopsis doesn’t give too much away, but obviously, given that it was written by J K Rowling, I was going to read it out of pure curiosity.
One of the lines in the synopsis is ‘A big novel about a small town’ and that couldn’t be more apt. As someone who lives in a small town, I found some eerily similar connections from the way everyone knows everyone to the local politics, though this feeling of familiarity was certainly not helped by the fact that it’s set in the west country and has a bigger town near by called Yarvil… Guess who lives in the west country, where the biggest nearby town is called Yeovil? Yep, me!
What struck me about the book was how real it seemed. Despite the fact where I live has nicer people on the whole, and is far less dramatic, you can see everything that goes on in Pagford happening in at least similar situations.
This book switches viewpoint frequently and focuses on a lot of different characters, more than any book I’ve read. However it’s not confusing, which is amazing considering theres 12 points of view there (give or take). Some only get one chapter, some get much more, but it was great to read them all.
Although the cast is varied and vast, not many of the characters weren’t easy to like. Some were partly likeable, but the worser parts of themselves seemed to annoy me more than the good, but others were thoroughly detestable. From the get go, there is a very small number of people I liked throughout the whole book.
While this might put people off, I found this compelling. I needed to know what happens to them. Do they Change? Were they all they seemed, or like many people, was their an underlying reason for their actions? Not once did I feel like I wanted to put the book down, despite reading the towns inner thoughts. I cared about a couple of characters I needed to know that they were ok, and the outcome of the overall story arc, so that combined with my fascination of the inner workings of local politics and family politics, where every character seemed to have their own agenda had me hooked unto the end.
Some characters were simply terrible all the way through (Simon as an example) however some had two sides to them. Andrew is one of them. At first I disliked the way he dealt with his best friend, Fat’s bullying of Sukhwinder, just laughing and standing by, but on the other side of the coin, his home life was terrible, I really felt for him at times.
Krystal is a character that at face value is one of those people you would want to avoid. However almost from the get-go you can’t help but like her. It goes to show that you shouldn’t presume, just because someone is rude, mouthy, dressed scruffily and seems to make trouble that they’re a bad person. I can’t imagine having to cope with what Krystal copes with throughout the book. One scene in particular about halfway through was heart-breaking. She is given so little support from anyone, it’s terrifying that this could happen.
This book was simply fascinating. Concentrated on a small area, but there was a lot happening none the less. Though if I hear the word ‘authentic’ and ‘inauthentic’ one more time I may scream.
Published by: Sphere
View Book on Goodreads
Order on: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository