Published by Little Brown & Company on September 27, 2012
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
It’s quite possible I’m one of the last people to read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but it had such mixed reviews when it came out that I wanted to give it some time before picking it up. When it was first released, there were two main camps: those who loved it and those who hated it. Almost two years after the book’s release, I can officially say that I fall into the camp that loves it. I owe this, in part, to the amount of time between the buzz and reading it – it made it very easy to read this as a book by a person, not a book by J.K. Rowling. Being able to separate the two, in my mind, is a good thing (especially because many of those who hated it were comparing it to Harry Potter, which is a big mistake).
The Casual Vacancy is a story about the intricacies of small town politics, relationships, and rivalries following the untimely death of parish councilman, Barry Fairbrother. Barry’s death is important because, without him, an important decision regarding the “poor” side of town is suddenly open for debate again, so both sides are trying to fill the spot with one of their own. Everyone, from the deli owner to the social worker to the junkie, is brought into drama.
As a political junkie, I loved every aspect of the drama surrounding the seat left by Barry Fairbrother, whose untimely departure set the book into motion. The backhanded deals and sabotage attempts were plausible and, to be honest, have been done in real life. More than a political story, however, The Casual Vacancy is about the people of Pagford. Every single character is richly developed and has a distinct role in the book. Whether it’s the unsatisfied wife or the surly teenager who hates his father, Rowling weaves them together so that to remove one character would unravel the entire fabric of the story.
If you’re like me and have been on the fence about whether to read The Casual Vacancy, I highly recommend you choose to do so. It’s a fantastic book that’s set in the real world and, if you can read this as a book by a person and not Rowling, a wonderful experience.