The Casual Vacancy conundrum

For the past week and an half, I’ve taken up JK Rowling’s newest release, The Casual Vacancy. I had seen it in book stores across the UK and Europe. I had not read reviews or knew anyone who had read the book, but I knew I wanted to read it (I very much love the Harry Potter series). So, upon my return to the States, I procured a copy. The jacket description wrote that after the unexpected death of a parish councillor in the small and fictitious town of Pagford, the residents have a nasty battle for the now-vacant seat. What  at first seems a cozy and idyllic location, turns out to be a secret-hiding, peculiar loyalty-lying town with a few skeletons in its closet. Perfect. This sounded wonderful to me and I had images of Hot Fuzz come to mind.

In reality, the novel carries on with a ton of characters. I had such a hard time keeping track of everyone. When I was finally calm and collected in one character’s section, the novel would move on to something that happened about 100 pages earlier. It took too long for my brain to bounce back and start following the plot. Secondly, I found what I had read uneventful. Where were all of the dastardly deeds, the underhandedness, the hidden secrets?!

So, the aforementioned conundrum became, “Should I finish this book? It is JK Rowling. Maybe something will happen.”

I had long ago forsaken my 50 Page Rule and full steamed ahead to page 259 out of a possible 503! But, finally, after a day or two of thought, I closed The Casual Vacancy and put it away. I looked over at my stack of unread books and plucked a new one from the stack. I have so many to read and there is no reason for me to waste my time with a slog. Anyways, I heard the BBC will be putting together the novel as a series. Maybe this format is better suited for Rowling’s project.


    1. yes, unless reading books for school or a job, reading should be a personal pleasure. Why waste time with a slog? Hopefully, she can come up with something less boring next time. It was a surprise because the Harry Potter books are so plotty and momentum oriented.

  1. Sounds as if she might have been trying her wings with a huge change and couldn’t quite take off. Maybe next time she’ll figure out how to write this kind of story better, or take a step back to use the strengths she already has.

    But thanks for the warning – there are so many more books than hours to read them!

  2. I found the start really slow, it took me about 200 pages to want to know more, and by the last 300 I was devouring it. Haven’t decided how I feel about it yet – I did enjoy it, but I don’t like reading things that take a long time to draw you in 🙂

    1. Thanks for your take on all of it. Like you, I don’t think it should be 200 pages before we get anything kicking. Maybe if I had more time or patience, but right now I am also reading another book that I’ve been sent for review which is also turning in to a slog.

  3. You were generous to go beyond your 50 page rule. I almost purchased the book prior to surgery earlier this month. I was waffling and after reading your blog post am glad I saved the money. As others have commented, I too already have a pile of books to read.

    Thank you,

    1. yes, the 50 page rule had to be extended because of the length of the book and the quality of writing. I hope you were able to find a page-turning pleasure for your recuperation. Hope all is well!

  4. Your experience sounds almost identical to mine, only you stuck with it much farther than I. Personally, I’ll wait for the TV series and hope that it’s populated by all my favorite British character actors.

  5. I rarely loathe a book, but this is one case where I feel the emotion is appropriate. I don’t even know if I’d be willing to watch the mini-series.

    1. Were you able to finish it? I’m stunned by the many reader reviews that have come out gushing over it. I think her writing generally is strong but it needed editing for plot, structure, etc. It was such a slog. Honestly, I thought it would be completely different.

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