Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

In The Casual Vacancy, councillor, Barry Fairbrother dies leaving a seat on the parish council empty. As his friends, family and foes come to terms with Barry's death, they must decide who's going to take his place. Like other small towns, it seems that everyone knows and is somehow connected to one another. That doesn't mean they agree, though. They definitely hold differing opinions on what to do with The Fields, a rundown development plagued with problems, and an addiction treatment facility, which happens to be located in The Fields. As people choose sides and the discussions heat up, many secrets are unearthed as the battles between husbands and wives, parents and children/teenagers, rich and poor, and teachers and students, reach a boiling point.

I loved this book!!! It's definitely one of the best I've read this year. There was something about the characters and the story that drew me in from the very first page. It definitely wasn't a happy book, but I found it strangely compelling. It's definitely not short on devious paybacks, dirty deals, and snarky comments. Scattered throughout the book are little bits and pieces of Rowling's cheeky, wry humour. I thought those were brilliant! It was one of those books that I didn't want to put down and looked forward to picking up again when I got a few minutes to read.

I had heard that there are lots of characters in this book, so even before I began, I armed myself with pen and paper to keep track of them. I counted 31 characters in the first 40 pages! Sure, not all of them turned out to be major characters (some of them were only mentioned that one time), but still you don't know that when you are reading. That's a lot of people to keep track of. As if that wasn't bad enough, even more characters were mentioned later on. At first, I had to refer to my list all the time. After awhile, though, I really got to know the characters and didn't really need it.

Speaking of the characters, I loved them all! With over 30 characters, you'd think there would be some that I didn't care for or didn't want to read about. However, that's not the case. They were all terribly flawed, but each one was believable and had interesting characteristics. There were several that stood out, but one of my favourite was Kay, although, I'm not entirely sure why. I do know that I loved reading about her dealings with Krystal, Terri and Robbie. It was incredibly sad situation, but in some ways interesting, too.

I loved the way Rowling tied events together, even those that were seemingly many times removed from each other. I really, really want to list my favourite here, but I'm afraid it's a bit of a spoiler. I'll just say it has to do with the Prices' computer. It's also another example (I think) of Rowling's sense of humour.

At 501 pages, it's quite a long book, but didn't feel like that. I'm a slow reader and keeping track of everything slowed me down even more. I didn't mind, though. I loved every word.

New words:
friable (page 39): crumbly
hessian (page 41): canvas
truculent (page 44): hostile
quixotic (page 49): idealistic, unrealistic
obstreperous (page 53): disruptive
coprolites (page 54): petrified dung
hirsutism (page 120): atypical growth of hair
vertiginously (page 164): dizzying
pusillanimous (page 190): timid
bolshy (page 225): uncooperative
inchoate (page 295): unclear
gurdwara (page 301): Sikh place of worship
gormless (page 347): stupid
bowdlerized (page 389): censor
chimeric (page 423): in this instance, probably chimera-like, figment of your imagination or daydream.

Just a small word of warning: Even though Rowling has written books in the past for young people, this one is definitely for adults, or at least older teens. There's lots of swearing and illicit behaviour, so it's probably best to keep the little ones away.

Highly recommended. I hope she writes many more books for adults.

For more information about this book, please visit Hachette's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group Canada for this review copy.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ©2012. ISBN 9780316228534(Hardcover), 501p.

P.S. I purposely stayed away from mentioning her wildly popular...ahem...Harry Potter...ahem...children's books.

1 comment:

  1. So glad to hear you love this book. I bought it as soon as it came out, but then heard so many negative things that I didn't try it. Now I'm psyched to give it a go.


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