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

This is the famous children’s author’s first adult book.  I haven’t read Harry Potter so came to it with few expectations.  I thought it was quite excellent.

The Casual Vacancy coverThe novel is set in a small town called Pagford, it begins with the sudden death of a local councillor and then follows the reactions and consequences to his death.  There is a huge cast of characters.  There are those who benefited from his community and political work, those who disapproved of it, his family, his friends…the the family and friends of his family and friends!  Even those not close to him find themselves effected by his death in some way.

It is a moving and moral story.  Rowling writes the teenage characters particularly well (perhaps from her practice in Harry Potter!).  She expresses both the lighter and darkest sides of teenage life very well, it really took me back to aspects of my own teenage years growing up in a small rural English town.

It’s hard to write a clear synopsis – I guess basically it’s about characters jostling for power once a vacancy has unexpectedly appeared on the council at a time when big changes to the town are being voted on – but that doesn’t cover even half of it!  I guess it’s more a portrait of small town life with us following several of the inhabitants in a dramatic few weeks of their lives.

There is humour in this tale but really it’s a very sad story.  I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so gritty and moving so be warned you may need a handkerchief to hand towards the end!


The novel was adapted into a TV series which I didn’t see.  Did any of you? Any good?

In terms of criticisms I have a few (I watch out for them while I’m reading now in readiness for my review writing).  Possibly there were too many characters, for the first half of the book I struggled to remember who was who and some characters weren’t that interesting (although I do wonder if it might all have been too intense if it had only focused on the interesting people!).  Secondly I wonder if some readers might find it a bit lectury?  There are strong moral messages about doing the right thing and not judging people when you know nothing about their background or what they have been through.  I think it was great but possibly it might be seen as a bit of a sermon if someone were just looking for a purely entertaining read.  It’s also got political under tones (unsurprisingly!) some of the vulnerable characters suffer because of council budget cuts and lack of social service resources, so it’s certainly not escapism for anyone worried about austerity politics!

Overall an excellent and moving tale with both likeable characters and a few you will love to hate!





Filed under Book Review, books, Modern Fiction

2 responses to “Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

  1. Julia Molloy

    Great review! I watched the TV series and really enjoyed it, so I’ll definitely be looking to read this in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interested to hear that. I looked up some reviews of the TV series online after writing the blog and they were mostly critical. But if you liked it maybe they were wrong!


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