|The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. (£3.75 on sale from £7.99)|
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!