Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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 façade 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.


Release Date: 2012 by Little, Brown & Company
Source: Borrowed from EPL

J.K. Rowling took an extreme turn from Harry Potter to what was supposed to be considered “adult fiction”. When I was made aware of this new realm Rowling was stepping into I thought she would be ruining her reputation as “the HP author”, and her credibility as a “fluke” novelist. Unfortunately, yet fortunately with all the lewd sexual acts, tasteless foul language and the more than apparent violent tension of the various degrees that hover in the the fictional community yet nobody seems to “want to talk about it” but it so plain, just makes this book nothing but fiction. Obviously I’d never recommend any young teen to read, but adults can definitely have no issue getting enthralled with the commotion of the Pagford community.

Wavering around a the death of Barry Fairbrother and his attempted legacy he was working on before his unfounded death, we follow three different families and how everybody is connected by the darkest of secrets. The “Ghost of Barry Fairbrother” is haunting the local parish council website forums, divulging information on the runner’s up for the council position. Nobody knows who it is, but the affected are terrified that the messages may be considered serious.

Sex. Violence. Rape. Abuse. Drugs. Child welfare. Adultery. This book has it all, except for a slight glimpse of real happiness.

We’re constantly being thrown several characters that play major roles, that unless you were keeping a chart, you could forget who’s who. That’s the downside. The book otherwise was well written, and although confusing at times seems to make the most sense, and with all the drama revolving around many of the characters the ending just seems like an unanticipated dead-end for your emotions. Anti-climatic.

Have you read or listened to this book? What’d you think?

4 Star signature


About Black ' n Write Reviewer

Library Tech grad who is currently working on a BA in Political Science and filling all her time with books.
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3 Responses to Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

  1. ohdebs says:

    I loved this book even though it was a dark story. But full disclosure here: I am a big fan of Tom Hollander and listened to him tell the story in the audiobook version I found it a bit easier to keep track of the characters with the different voices. If you have only read the book you are in for a treat with the audiobook. All in all though, I thought Ms Rowling did a great job with this very different type of book. I look forward to whatever she does next. And of course I hope the hire Tom to read again.

    • Thank you very much for you comment! As you might be able to see I first read this book via audio, but absolutely felt that the story was a lot easier to understand narrated just for the same reason that you described: the different voices.
      I too look forward to J.K. Rowling’s future endeavours.

  2. Pingback: My Month (in a Flash) | Black 'n Write

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