H O M E .      A B O U T .      C O N T A C T .      T U M B L R .      T H E   B O O K   J O U R N A L .      sailorjennie [at] gmail [dot] com

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Bookshelf: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. (£3.75 on sale from £7.99)
"In the idyllic small town of Pagford, a councillor dies and leaves 'casual vacancy' - an empty seat on the Parish Council. In the election for his successor that follows, it is clear that behind the pretty surface this is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, wives at war with husbands, teachers at war with pupils... Pagford is not what it first seems."

The Casual Vacancy is a book I was almost a little scared to read and I put it off for the longest time. Why? Because J.K. Rowling is someone I really look up to and I wasn't sure I would like this as much as I hoped. Her ability to piece together a whole world that envelops the reader, I think, is incredible and of course, she's the mastermind behind Harry Potter - some of my most treasured childhood books. I knew that this book would be very different and I almost had to prepare myself to read something from Rowling that wasn't about the wizarding world I love. A few weeks ago I watched an interview with J.K Rowling on YouTube and the interviewer said he thought she would have a bit of a rough ride (he was very right!), but that he personally enjoyed it. It was then I started reading and I need not have worried because I was hooked from the very first chapter. Even though I do look up to Rowling, I've tried not to let the fact that she is the author cloud my judgement, how successful I've been I'm not sure and admittedly I may have actively sought elements to like even if I didn't enjoy the whole story.

Don't start this book expecting Harry Potter, it sounds like such an obvious thing to say, but I've read a few reviews saying they didn't like it solely because it's not Harry Potter. It's about as different from Harry Potter as it's possible to be and before starting I think it's important to detach yourself from her previous work and any preconceptions or hopes that it will be anything like Harry Potter, because it's not and you'll be disappointed. This isn't a book everyone will enjoy, whether you love or loathe it will depend on many things (whether you like to explore less-than-happy worlds within literature & possibly where you sit on the political spectrum amongst others), I understand that and it's okay not to like it, but to not like it simply because it's not something else seems a little unfair to me.

It's not a super fast paced book, time is taken to describe the location, the character's and exactly what's going on in their world. Rowling has done it again, she has created an entire world that really enveloped me as a reader. I felt like I was there, like I was part of the community, silently watching and understanding the reasons why certain things happened the way they did. If you live in a small town or village you might smile, as I did, when you begin to notice certain similarities between a couple of characters in the book and people you know. The characters are all interwoven and there are quite a lot of them to keep track of. It took a little bit of time for me to get my bearings as it were, a few times I had to pause and think 'ahh who is this again and where do they fit within the community?' before continuing and this is something I know won't be for everyone.

I laughed and I cried because I was so invested in the characters lives. I'd got to know them, the way they thought, why they thought the things they did and why they did the things they did, no matter how flawed their logic or how much I was wishing them to make a different decision. They're so unapologetically human, they're all flawed in many ways yet I found myself rooting for a couple of them in particular. It's a very adult book, there's some quite colourful language, the topics addressed are gritty, raw and real - some of these situations are a reality for many when they should be a reality for none. There's no Harry Potter-esque 'innocence', that's not quite the right world because there's a lot of darkness within Harry's world and a lot of devastating moments, but in the end, as we know, all was well. Is all well in Pagford at the end of this book? You'll have to read to find out.

Rowling, for me, has created magic out of everyday life with this novel. I finished reading it last week and in many ways it's still with me. I find myself thinking about particular chapters and characters and I think this is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time because I love books that allow me to get lost inside them, whether they're happy or not. Taking a step back, would I have loved it as much if it were written by someone else? Yes, I would and for that reason it's a very easy one to rate.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? 
I would love to know what you think, whether you love or loathe it and why! 
xoxo

72 comments:

  1. I think that's the most amazing thing about Rowling - she has such a unique way of creating these amazingly detailed 'worlds'. I think that's what I loved the most about HP! I haven't read this yet, but I'm bound to at some point! xxx

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  2. I adore this book! Partly because for me Rowling can do no wrong but also because in its own right it's just an amazing book. It took a while for me to get my head around the swearing, it felt like hearing your parent or teacher swear lol, but I just love her writing style and the way you sink into it and before you know it you've read 100 pages! Have you read her latest one she published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith? It was also very good and I'm excited for more from her! Love your review of this book, you write very well yourself :) x

    Claire | AgentSmyth

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    1. Haha ahh you're right, it was quite like that at first! I have, I finished it a few days ago and I loved it. She's so talented it's unreal! xo

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  3. I've put off reading this - and the new book she wrote under the Robert Gailbraith pseudonym - purely because I loved the Harry Potter books and am not sure if I can emotionally invest in new JK work! Silly, possibly!
    I may give it a go one day bit I have to detach myself first, as you said!
    Keep in touch :)
    Andrea
    www.lanouvellenoire.com xxx

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    1. Something to prepare for for sure! xo

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  4. Argh I got about 3 chapters in to this and put it down. But I was the same with Harry Potter. JK Rowling's writing style just doesn't appeal to me! But I am not thinking I should give it another go...
    Rosie x | Every Word Handwritten

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    1. Definitely not for everyone, could be worth another try though! xo

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  5. Wow five out of five stars Jennie?! I might have to buy it for my kindle! It has been on my list for ages but i have so many other books to get through before I was going to buy it.
    Sophie
    x

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    1. I loved it, one of those I could barely put down! xo

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  6. I've heard great things about this book, J.K Rowling is such a talented writer, so I can't wait to read more from her.

    Dannielle | Chic-a-DeeDee

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  7. I haven't read this yet. Not so much because I'm worried about the inevitable departure from Harry Potter, but because I have just not had time to read my way through my apparently endless list.

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    1. It's always a good thing to have a lot of books to read! xo

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  8. I read this on holiday and it was amazing. It screamed JK, her writing style is second to none and I was totally biased because I love her but this book IS so so good!
    I'm not into detective books at all, but I may have to pick up the cuckoo's calling next!
    xo

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    1. I love her too, I think she's fabulous and such an inspiration. She must have so many incredible ideas inside her head! Really recommend the Cuckoo's Calling, she manages to build up another world that it's about the characters more than solving the mystery! xo

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  9. what a fantastic review! I have only seen negative ones based on the fact - it isnt harry potter, which is a shame, it was one of the first books i got for my new kindle and still havent read it , a year later, this most certainly alters my thoughts!

    emily @ afternoonbookery.blogspot.com xxx

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    1. I definitely think it's unfair to not like it solely because it's not Harry Potter, it's so different and well worth a read! xo

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  10. Every time I am in a bookstore I look at this book but always put it back because it isn't harry potter! Maybe next time Ill actually get it! Great review! xx Rena Kiss and Make Up

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  11. I've had the same reservations as you but JK Rowling is such a good writer so I'll have to read this soon :) xx

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  12. I've also been put off reading it for the very same reasons but after this review, I may just give it a go! I love being so involved in a book that it moves me to tears.

    Tara xo

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    1. Me too, any book that draws you in like that has to be good in my view! xo

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  13. I've had this for a while and haven't read it yet... going to start it tonight now!

    ▲ WOLF WHISTLE ▲

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  14. This book has been sitting on my bookshelf unread for the longest time, since the release date even. I've not had the courage to start this story the same reason you had: Harry Potter is pretty much sacred to me. But I'm sure I won't be dissapointed, so I really want to start reading it soon!

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    1. I think you'll really enjoy it <3

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  15. I'm afraid to say I hated this! It felt like she'd stored up every bad word, every negative phrase and every disgusting possible idea she'd been unable to use in Harry Potter... and just vomited it into The Casual Vacancy. I really didn't see the point of it, and for me, large chapters of it were completely unnecessary and didn't even add anything to the story. I was quite sad I hated it tbh.

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    1. Aw that's a shame. I think the language used was appropriate for the story, it fitted and is pretty realistic, at least in my opinion in relation to some of my/my friend's childhood/teenage experiences. xo

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  16. I haven't read this book yet, and I have been putting it off for a while because I have read the reviews, and most of them don't give the book a positive rating because of it's raw essence (probably because it is so different from Harry Potter). After reading your review, I am extremely tempted to read this book and I think I will! :)

    http://www.thekiing.blogspot.com

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    1. I really recommend giving it a go, it's certainly not a book for everyone but I think it's worth a read! xo

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  17. This sounds great, I adore my books so must give this a look!

    www.makeupmonster.ie

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  18. I saw this in a charity shop and I wish I'd picked it up now! I wasn't a huge fan of HP (sorry!) but since reviews said this was so different perhaps I'd like this. Love your book reviews, it's nice to read something different on a blog! xxx

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    1. It's completely different, worth a try for sure! xo

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  19. I saw this book featured and I was unsure if I too, would like it. I read the sample pages and safe to say I like this book and the intricate detailing she proves us the reader with!

    Eloise | simplynaturale xo

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    1. She's such a talented writer <3

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  20. Admittedly i've never read any of her books (i know, i know, shame on me) but i have a feeling that this book would resonate with me more than the epic wizarding world she created.. It's so amazing when a book actually transports you completely into its world. I always try to vow to myself that i'll read more. I really should.

    PS i'm currently giving away a pair of Rich & Skinny jeans on my blog, but hurry, ends tonight! http://www.fashionoverreason.com/2013/09/rich-skinny-other-things.html

    Great blog! xx

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    1. It really is, she's wonderfully talented at that. <3

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  21. I have had this on my Kindle for a couple of months, I need to make some time to read. I used to read so much but have found it a little hard to concentrate this year. I will make it a mini year end resolution to finish this before the year is out. I am excited to see what I make of it & also to read something from her that isn't Harry Potter (although I do LOVE those books)
    http://www.letstalkbeauty.co.uk/

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    1. Me too, I've only just got back into reading and I've really been enjoying it. <3

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  22. i enjoyed reading this review. she's incredible at character building, which made the novel so engrossing but also uncomfortable at times for me, because i had sympathy but also such dislike for a lot of the characters. she's definitely not a one trick pony! x

    Miho @ Wander to Wonder

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    1. There are a lot of characters I found unlikeable, but there were a couple that really tugged on my heart strings! xo

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  23. This review is very good :) I haven't read it tho!

    http://coeursdefoxes.blogspot.com/

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  24. I love J.K rowling! i dont have this book yet, I follow you at bloglovin.
    Much love x

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  25. Ah I love what you're reviewing it by 'sailboats' haha so cute. I've ummed and ahhed about reading this, hearing it's good from some and bad from others and there's me not sure if I should ruin the 'magic' behind Rowling and harry potter.. Silly I know! Loved your review, it sounds like a great read-I really should read it haha!
    Daniella x

    http://daniella-r.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. It won't ruin the magic, it's so so different the two can't really be compared <3

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  26. i'll get this soon :) sounds great!

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  27. I think it's hard for J K Rowling, because there is so much hype around Harry Potter and it is what has made her, she will be forever known as the woman who wrote Harry Potter. I have to admit I am not a die hard Harry Potter fan so the fact she has branched out a little makes her a little more appealing to me :) xx

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    1. I like that this book proves she's not just a one trick pony! xo

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  28. I downloaded this recently on my Kindle and have kind of being putting off reading it as I know it's not going to be Harry Potter, but I kind of want it to be! I think I'm going to start it tonight :) Great review Jennie :)

    Jess xo

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  29. Jennie, this is such a good in depth review! I haven't added this to my bookshelf yet but I'd definitely like to try it - especially with a 5/5 review! I really love books that have meaning and stay with me so it'll be on my bookshelf soon, I'm sure xxx

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  30. It's so nice to see you giving it a good review as if I'm honest I've only heard bad things about the book, I've heard it's a really slow read but sounds like it's a grower! Will keep it on my to-read list :)

    Rosie | A Rosie Outlook

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    1. I loved it, turned out to be one of those books I couldn't put down! xo

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  31. I love a book that you can get lost in, I will have to add this to my "to read" list xx

    Quite Frankly She Said - UK Lifestyle Blog

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  32. I haven't read it yet as tbh, the bad reviews have put me off slightly but I will definitely be picking this up off my bookshelf soon!

    Futures; a Beauty & lifestyle blog

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    1. I really recommend giving it a try! Xo

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  33. It sounds fantastic, well worth a read. To me nothing beats characters you feel empathy for, or a story that sticks in your mind.

    Sophie
    soinspo

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  34. To me it was like Harry Potter in the way that she created a world, even though this one was much more like the world we live in. I put off reading it for a while too but I think it's one of the best books I've read in a long time. I'm apprehensive about reading the Cuckoos Calling though. I just never think she'll be able to top her last.

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    1. I agree, I was really impressed and instantly became one of my favourite books I've read in a while! I've read the Cuckoo's Calling and I loved that too, very different again but her character building is incredible once again! I recommend! xo

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  35. I agree with every word you've written! One thing to add in the description of it being 'adult', was at one point reading it on the tube I was as embarrassed as if reading 50 Shades. JK doesn't know about that stuff does she? Oh hang on, it's not Harry Potter... we need to remember that, as you say.

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    1. She's proved just how talented she is, able to write something completely different from HP, yet so convincing and well thought through. A great read! xo

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