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?
I had heard a lot about how this is… well, not Harry Potter so not to expect that. And I didn’t. I had heard about how it was a bit of a (big) let down for a lot of people so I went in there with very few expectation. Even then… I was really not expecting this.
From the start the book seemed… off, even for an author not as accomplished as J.K. Rowling. It was really hard to get into, a plethora of characters were introduced in very rapid succession and the point-of-view changes from character to character with no notice/separation (one paragraph will be from the perspective of Character A and the next paragraph is from Character B’s perspective) making it hard to keep track of them all for the first 1/4 of the book. So to say it was a slow go, it’s putting it mildly – it took me a solid 2.5 weeks to read it, now compare that to my reading any of the Harry Potter books in a day.
Additionally, the book is just depressing. The summary makes it sound like the plot in all about an election is a small town in countryside England… not so much. It’s much more about the townspeople, all their secrets, fights, mistakes, and general dislike for one another. Moreover, I cannot recall a single good thing that happened to any one of the characters in the entire book. I get that life is not always rainbows and unicorns and that books should reflect the harsh reality of life, but dang… not a single good thing. And the ending? The ending was the single most depressing ending I’ve ever read. I mean, you read this whole book thinking, something good has got to happen in the end – for at least one person, please! – but no, the end it’s a compounding of bad thing after bad thing and the townspeople all reflecting on how crappy their lives are.
I love J.K. Rowling for giving me seven wonderful books that I’ve read and re-read but I’m glad I got this book from the library since I know, 100%, that I won’t be re-reading this.