Has anyone read J.K. Rowling's "A Casual Vacancy"?

(59 Posts)
Jacksmania Sat 01-Dec-12 04:21:45

I'm about a sixth of the way through it and it's really bloody depressing sad
I enjoy her writing so much and I want to keep going to see what happens, but f* me, so far it's just grim.

Bin it (well, delete, I paid $2.50 for the eBook so it wouldn't hurt too much), or keep going?

Spoilers welcome, I just have so little time to read these days, that I want to know I'm not wasting my time. I have the entire Game of Thrones series to switch to if this one's a lemon.

DuchessofMalfi Sat 01-Dec-12 07:04:12

Got my copy from the library and I'm going to start it this weekend.

ninjanurse Sat 01-Dec-12 11:23:01

I thought exactly the same thing. Very bleak and grim. Is middle England really like this? And such dislikeable characters too. Also, TOO many characters - I wanted one of those character lists at the front of the book so I could work out who was related to who.

It was ok book, not brilliant.

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Sat 01-Dec-12 11:26:00

I started it but got bored. I am a massive HP fan and I'm very disappointed.

QueenofNightmares Sat 01-Dec-12 14:53:01

I did finish it even though it is incredibly depressing I really didn't like it I'm afraid and I loved HP sad I just wanted more for the charcters who deserved so much more than they got.

I don't feel like the book would have been published if it was by a lesser known author to be honest as a lot of it was just terrible "the pain sliced through his head like a wrecking ball" being a good show of how awful it was in places.

bohoec Sat 01-Dec-12 15:58:54

I finished it, but it was a bit of a drag. No happy ending either (sorry - you did say you didn't mind spoilers, so hope that's ok!).

I just found the overly descriptive style quite claustrophobic - it didn't leave any space to bring your own imagination and interpretation to the characters or relationships. I didn't mind the bleak narrative - that felt quite realistic in parts! I would say these characters are the worst of middle England all in one village - I hope there isn't really a place like that, but I did recognise some of the character traits in people I know / know of!

I personally can't bear not finishing a book, but I know what you mean about wanting to get on and read / watch other things you might enjoy more. I'd say persevere and finish it - it does pick up the pace and the characters start to become more complex rather than just one dimensional descriptions (which really irritated and confused me fir the first third of the book).

I wouldn't rush out to recommend it, and totally agree Queen - it probably wouldn't have been published if it wasn't J K Rowling!

Jacksmania Sat 01-Dec-12 16:20:44

Ugh. I don't have time to read depressing shit.
Bin, I think. Thank goodness it was cheap.

On to Game of Thrones!!

Jacksmania Sat 01-Dec-12 16:22:18

Actually, this reminds me of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Great writing, but utterly depressing and no happy ending. Well, for Leila but not Miriam. sad

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Sat 01-Dec-12 16:51:34

I felt like she could have at least have Petunia Dursley turn up somewhere. Surely all that scandal would have been right up her street.

LaCiccolina Sat 01-Dec-12 16:54:21

Nope. I bought 50 shades based on others saying how good it was. It was dire.

I'm avoiding this one.

Babybeargrylls Sat 01-Dec-12 16:59:33

I couldn't finish it and it was upsetting me too much, thought story was drawn out, pointless and awful characters. I never quit a book but this was the exception

Newshoesplease Sat 01-Dec-12 17:00:45

I agree that there's too many characters. I've been stuck on page 50 for weeks, I can't keep up with who's who! I think it's beautifully written but I just don't care enough about any character to plough on!

hackmum Sat 01-Dec-12 19:07:26

We have had a couple of other threads on this - I really enjoyed it, but I appear to be the only one. I thought the ending was really powerful.

GettinTrimmer Sun 02-Dec-12 22:46:57

I agree hackmum I found the ending profound.

It's worth sticking with until the end. Some of the awful Petunia and Vernon Dursley type people were reassessing their attitudes.

Don't want to give anything away but it was sad the extreme circumstances were the only factor that could have changed them.

Did the book remind anyone of Middlemarch? I liked the way JK Rowling navigated her way through recounting conversations taking place in people's houses and laid bare what was going on behind closed doors.

Graceparkhill Sun 02-Dec-12 22:55:22

I got stuck about 25% into the book and then later decided to persevere . I thought the characters were well drawn and some of them had happy endings and some didn't so realistic I suppose..

The last part was so grim I almost stopped caring( not expressing myself well)and that protected me from being too upset. I think she could have covered the same ground but allowed for more optimism.

I have never read HP so had no expectations of JKR. I wil read her next one( v generous of me to give UK's most successful author a second chance)

hackmum Mon 03-Dec-12 09:20:14

GettinTrimmer - yes, I suspect she had Middlemarch in mind when she wrote it. I think one of the achievements of the novel is to include so many characters and to show how their lives interweave - not many novelists can handle more than four or five central characters, ime. She also has a very Dickensian moral focus, with a real anger about how poor people are treated by the better off. Then there's that very Christian ending, which mirrors the parable of the good Samaritan and people being forced to confront their attitudes. I also think it's very clever that she has the influence of Barry Fairbrother hanging over the book - the one unequivocally morally good person who inspires other people to behave better, but who fall apart when he's no longer there. All in all, I think it's a pretty impressive achievement and it's a shame so many people don't like it.

valiumredhead Mon 03-Dec-12 12:29:55

I'm a couple of chapters in - it's better than HP wink

GettinTrimmer Tue 04-Dec-12 20:25:04

In a strange sort of way the way she wrote the ending offered hope of the good being brought out in people albeit they were shamed into it sad

Hackmum I read Middlemarch years ago for A Level and I remember reading George Eliot's profound analysis of the motivations and inner life of the characters; JK's novel isn't as long as Middlemarch but I agree she does develop many of the Character's inner lives.

She got some humour in at the end (I really don't want to give anything away!) which was a lovely tribute.

I liked it.

I bought it really wanting to like it because she seems like an all round, decent sort and I agreed with her politics so I was pleased when I did. However I only read the first Harry potter and wasn't a massive fan - it all seemed a bit derivative to me (although the kids enjoyed them) so there was nothing to be disappointed about with her taking a different path with this book IYSWIM.

I agree with Hackmum - it was quite Dickensian which I liked and the multiple characters were surprisingly well-rounded. Also I went to school with a girl very much like Krystal and grew up in an area that bordered a sink estate very much like the Fields and for me the 'them and us' divisions in the book rang true.

DontForgetTheSproutsLawrence Tue 04-Dec-12 23:00:19

My mum (a non-HP reader) has recommended it a lot. Depends on your outlook, I think?

NicknameTaken Wed 05-Dec-12 11:20:07

I wouldn't exactly use the word enjoyable, and I won't re-read it, but that said, I find that it has lingered on in my mind more than most books. For me, it was surprisingly powerful.

I think I will give it a go...

lauraellajane Mon 10-Dec-12 13:32:49

I've tried it but had to give up, I just can't find a thread to keep me hooked at all.

Did anyone see JKR's interview about it? There was a BBC programme devoted to it. I found the interview really interesting - her vision for the book and her reasons for writing it coming out of her background, and her sense of unfairness about society. She did say that the only likable character is supposed to be the one who leaves the Casual Vacancy, and of course he's dead so I didn't start the book expecting to bond with any characters but I agree - it is pretty depressing!

I'll pick it up again in a few months I think, sounds like it's worth sticking out to the end.

DuchessofMalfi Mon 10-Dec-12 14:12:22

I've got about 125 pages to go. It's been good, but has needed a lot of concentration to keep track of who's who.

I keep misreading Yarvil as Yeovil. It's supposed to be set in the West Country, so wondered if that was the town JKR had in mind. And, of course, I now see Sherborne as Pagford. Where did everyone else think of for these two places?

DuchessofMalfi Wed 12-Dec-12 14:23:29

I finished reading it last night. I liked it, but what a depressing, upsetting ending. Don't want to plot spoil, but my DS is virtually the same age as Robbie Weedon, and I was sobbing.

I wonder whether JKR will want to revisit Yarvil and Pagford in the future. I'm sure she could find more to say about these often grotesque characters.

NicknameTaken Fri 14-Dec-12 14:10:29

I was thinking about this book in relation to HP, and I started wondering if some of the difficulty people have is that the hope she provides in HP - that a child can be neglected and abused but still protected by early love and can go on to love and be loved - is taken away quite brutally in this book. Early neglect and abuse is seriously damaging, and often it may not be possible to overcome it at all. More realistic in many cases, perhaps, but bleak all the same.

HoneyMurcott Wed 26-Dec-12 18:34:57

I loved this book! I loved how the characters were rounded - they stayed in your head for ages afterwards. Agree that the number of characters got confusing at the start, but as I read on, they crystallized and it became easy to remember who was who. Probably because they were so well drawn. Yes, it deals with real and gritty themes, and has tragic events at the end which acts as a catalyst for positive changes in several characters' lives but I didn't think this was a depressing book. Thought -provoking and at times gritty, yes. And drugs, neglect, abuse, addiction, self-harm, domestic violence, etc are happening everywhere. I would say this is right on the money. I am not a massive fan of HP, but enjoyed this book so much because the characters were so well observed and believable. (Unlike HP.) As the novel goes on, many of the characters, while still possessing many undesirable traits, do become sympathetic/understandable. Several are moved to show compassion and act from the best of intentions, which is why there is hope in this novel, even amidst terrible tragedy. I say this novel proves JK's skill as a writer. She can weave a good story, tell a good tale, provoke us to think about confronting issues in society today. And this time it is character driven. I urge all of you who have given up on it to try again!

mintyminty Thu 27-Dec-12 16:01:37

I read it, enjoyed it (even if it is more a down experience than an up one). Obviously very different to HP, but I like her style of writing.

Cooroo Fri 28-Dec-12 20:45:22

Another fan here. Although the characters were mostly not likeable I enjoyed the way Rowling showed us the way they saw themselves. I thought she had sympathy for human awfulness and also a strong sense of how we could be better.

Mind you, Game of Thrones is a great read too - another one where good and bad are blended.

PenelopeLane Sun 30-Dec-12 08:32:14

I just finished this and really liked it. I loved HP but for different reasons, and wasn't keen on reading Vacancy due to the reviews - only picked it up when my book club chose to read it. I am so glad I did as well, it took a while for me to get into it, but I thought the character development excellent and the key messages in the book to be really powerful

iseenodust Thu 31-Jan-13 18:20:09

Finally read it. Found it all overly bleak. It needed more balance than the deceased Barry. I believe there are pleasant people out there ! <Have worked in NHS so don't live in happy valley.>

Cooroo Fri 01-Feb-13 15:52:57

I'll just pitch in as another one who loved it, to balance things a bit. I enjoyed Harry Potter, but this is very different. I didn't like any of the characters, I think that was the point, but I did feel that I liked Rowling very much.

axure Fri 01-Feb-13 16:02:48

It was OK, yes a bit depressing, and not much of a story, just the boring goings on in a Provincial village/town.

Arcticwaffle Fri 01-Feb-13 21:39:15

I'm 50 pages in. I think I'll stop there, so far it seems boring, full of stereotypes, and utterly ungripping. Luckily it's a library book so I can just return it unread.

I don't think likening it to Middlemarch does it any favours, it just highlights how much it isn't that good.

fromparistoberlin Wed 01-May-13 21:54:29

i really liked it. the characters were very well drawn, and after a slow start I found it unputdownable

I agree vis a vis stereotyping (Krystal remindeds me of how Jilly Copper characterised chavs in that yukky school book she did)

But Terri's childhood, Robbie, Andrew, Fats, Shuv...she did not shy away from showing the darker side

there was one phase that jarred, at the end she said that Robbie was foul mouthed and noone cared

but he could not talk! and surely he went to nursery and had adult contact there?

I could also understand why SS left him where he was, sadly

OneHolyCow Fri 03-May-13 19:18:00

Totally agree with Bohoec.. the characters were so totally written out, everything described and it left no space.. for anything real to happen?
Horrible book and also think would not have been published as is if it wass written by another less know writer.
Love HP, hated this.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Sat 11-May-13 15:25:10

I am not familiar with HP and listened to this on audibook.
I thought it was brilliantly written and sad when it ended.
I found the different characters to be so real and her insight into human nature so spot on.
I shall definitely be looking out for anything she brings out in the future based on this book alone!

SkaterGrrrrl Tue 14-May-13 03:14:54

I liked it. I thought it was brave of her to take such a strong stand re her politics

zebedeethezebra Tue 14-May-13 14:34:31

Bin it. I only made the first 150 pages and that was only because it was a present. It found it a load of rubbish. Couldn't see where the story was going. Way too many characters, I couldn't keep up with who was who as they were all so superficial and, most importantly, there was nothing to like about the characters, so I didn't care what happened to them.

twirlyagogo Thu 16-May-13 11:21:37

It is overwritten and dated I think - very Ben Elton-ish in stereotypes I think, but I still sort of enjoyed it. I don't care if I don't like characters in books, so that didn't matter; but, the way it was so padded was a bit tiresome, as was the pontificating. I can forgive her anything though for the joy she's brought to kids through HP smile.

TwoFourSixOhOne Thu 16-May-13 11:23:30

I got half way through it, thought I could see where it was headed, googled it to make sure and then stopped reading.

FAR too depressing for me.

Southeastdweller Wed 24-Jul-13 21:05:59

Out in paperback now and bought a copy to read soon. Has anyone else read it?

EweHaveGoatToBeKiddin Wed 24-Jul-13 21:08:15

I found it incredibly boring but persevered.

And I'm glad i did.

I found the end really powerful, but it wouldn't have had that effect if not for the huge build up at the start.

JoyceDivision Wed 24-Jul-13 21:13:00

Atfirst I wasn't bothered but persevered and I loved it, really drew me in. Some of the characters are grim and depresssing but they were eerily accurate descriptions, sadly.

There is a sentance at the end of one of last chapters that I found so sad and heart wrenching. Don't wantto give any spoilers so can't really say what it is but it was the final sentance in a chapter and I was heartbroken when I read it.

Please don't compare to HP or think characters should pop in... its utterly different to that

mayaswell Wed 07-Aug-13 18:49:29

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this book. Give it a go if you've considered it but something has stopped you.

KettleCHips Wed 28-Aug-13 22:38:39

Latecomer me - but just read the book and really liked it. Couldn't put it down - thought very real to life and a big reminder of where we are in Britain. However, don't read it if you want escapism and cheering up!!

Foosyerdoos Thu 29-Aug-13 19:43:33

I have just finished this book and I thought it was brilliant. I could not put it down and read it in a couple of days. It is quite bleak and a number of the characters are vile but they seemed so real. It is the first book I have been able to finish in a long time and I would definitely recommend it.
There is an element of redemption for some the characters but no nice tidy happy endings. I think this book will stay with me for a while.
If you liked this book I would recommend 'The King of the Badgers' by Philip Hensher
If anyone could recommend something similar I would be grateful, I have been finding it difficult to find any books that capture my interest

LemonMousse Fri 30-Aug-13 13:14:17

I'm another who loved it. Yes, it's sad, yes it's bleak but it's the fact that it's real that made it enjoyable for me.

I've just passed it on to my friend to read - I suspect she will hate it but I didn't give her any pointers, just said I'd enjoyed it and that there were no wizards in it.

char1981 Sat 14-Sep-13 21:49:05

Hmmm, know it's a hard going read, but I found the end strangely rewarding (and did cry my eyes out)

FreyaKItty Thu 26-Sep-13 08:12:09

I love crime thrillers but this didn't do anything for me. Detectives to

FreyaKItty Thu 26-Sep-13 08:15:12

The modern Detective/crime genre developed from the cowboy genre. Early novels were sparse in description. I enjoy good

FreyaKItty Thu 26-Sep-13 08:18:24

Sorry bloody phone is a nightmare ! I thought this book was allright. I'm glad I saw it in the library so didn't fork out anything for it. There are better writers at this genre out there.

Fragglewump Thu 26-Sep-13 08:27:25

I love reading but this was like chewing grass. I gave up and sent it to the charity shop.

The end was so shocking and powerful- it's stayed with me for months...

It was a relief to get there though!

I think she is massively massively talented and I'm a big fan (some editing down would have been good though)

AandAmom Wed 02-Oct-13 16:36:58

I loved it ! Try "Gone Girl" for a read with twists and turns smile loved that one too smile

Polpotsbabyteeth Fri 04-Oct-13 06:37:22

I loved A casual vacancy. So well-written, so real. JK has such a grip on the human condition. Have no knowledge of HP, and wouldn't read it, but from this I think she's fab.

southeastdweller Fri 04-Oct-13 23:03:58

I see it's only 99p on Kindle, as well as Gone Girl.

Galaxymum Sat 05-Oct-13 12:39:34

I was overwhelmed by the ending of this book. I couldn't get into another book for weeks after reading it because the images and characters had stayed with me. I think JK Rowling is very talented at creating complete characters - we saw the characters change in their different relationships and not just 2d characters. The social worker at work, then as a mum, as a partner who knew she was ina doomed relationship, and then meeting different villagers was one who stood out. I also liked the structure as each characters was affected in different ways by the councillor's death, then building up towards that traumatic climax. I loved it!

BaconAndAvocado Tue 08-Oct-13 21:06:52

Absolutely loved it.

Her characterisation was so insightful and some of the storylines were heart wrenching.

A superb read, can't wait to read her latest.

I cried at the ending.

A lot of astute social commentary IMO.

Less HP, more adult stories please JK smile

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