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The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

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The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Deej » 17 Jan 2015, 16:13

I've just finished reading this book. It's extremely different to her Harry Potter series.

Overall, I'd say it was a gripping, powerful, chilling and at times disturbing and upsetting portrayal of life in modern Britain and her belief of the vast inequality which exists between the richest and poorest. It is a very political book and touches on some very complex issues including rape, domestic abuse, drug abuse, crime, prostitution, race, class and a whole lot more.

Politically, I think JK Rowling writes this from quite a left-wing perspective (she is a donor for the Labour party and has openly criticised the current coalition government).

Just how I see the book - She pits the poor at war with the rich and as a reader you always feel like you're on the side of those on the poverty and crime-ridden Fields estate, rather than the comfortable, middle-class, Conservatism of Pagford. The poor characters are portrayed as desperate and troubled yet courageous and fighting in the face of snobbery and hatred from the middle-class Pagfordian characters who she believes have left them in this mess.

For me, Rowling portrays the middle-class as being quite crude and I also think that shone through in the Harry Potter books with her portrayal of the Dursleys and 'Muggles'.

I could write a lot more about this book but I don't want to say too much without giving anything else away. I'll be interested to read the views of anyone on here who has read this book.
Last edited by Deej on 17 Jan 2015, 16:50, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby pete9012S » 17 Jan 2015, 16:43

I've read the book and found it quite acerbic and biting in it's depictions and descriptions of the the classes,structure and social interaction within the British lifestyles she depicted.
I can't compare it to her work with Harry Potter unfortunately,as I've never read any of the Potter books!
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Moonraker » 17 Jan 2015, 17:43

Thanks for that, Deej; however, I think I'll give that one a miss.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Daisy » 17 Jan 2015, 17:49

Thanks for your summary Deej. I read it about a year ago and found it quite depressing, particularly as she packed just about every known problematic situation into it. I'm not sure if I can recall any redeeming feature and it's not a book I would want to re-read, unlike many others I happily read over and over again! I did not feel it was excessively politically slanted to the left but then I don't see the stories I read with politics in mind! Give me Hogwarts any time!
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 17 Jan 2015, 18:16

I must admit the title doesn't grab me and neither does the plain cover, but I'll probably give it a go one of these days just to see where J. K. Rowling went next after Harry Potter. The Cormoran Strike books might be more my cup of tea though.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby John Pickup » 17 Jan 2015, 19:00

Thanks for the review, Deej. I shall definitely give that one a miss.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Deej » 18 Jan 2015, 15:35

Interesting to read all your views.

I'd agree with Pete that Rowling is quite acerbic with her descriptions and depictions of the characters and the social classes within the book, especially so with the middle-class anti-fielders who live in Pagford. I think she is more positive with the characters who live on the estate and the pro-field members of the Parish Council.

Anita, which cover do you have? The first edition cover is very bland with its red and black but the second edition, paperback version is okay with its image of Pagford. The title of the books probably sums up what it's going to be all about really - local politics.

Daisy, It is quite a depressing book, but I think that was Rowling's intention. She wasn't intending for the book to be a laugh-a-minute and uplifting. The aim was for it to be a bleak portrayal of how she felt life in Britain is. For someone with an interest in politics and society like myself, I found out to be a very interesting read and it eclipsed the Harry Potters books in my view.

I'd agree that it's not for everyone but I think Rowling knew that when she was writing it. She wanted to write something that she felt strongly about. No, it wasn't excessively left-wing but I think it was definitely written from a leftish slant which is no surprise when you read up on Rowling's politics.

On the whole though, the book has sold extremely well and the reviews are generally good from what I've seen.

I'm looking forward to the BBC TV series later this year.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 18 Jan 2015, 18:17

I'd quite like to watch the TV series too, Deej, so I'll probably try to read the book beforehand. I don't own a copy but I might borrow it from the library. Up until now I'd only ever seen the hardback cover. The paperback cover (which I've just looked up online) is an improvement, though still a bit bland. But then I'm used to J. K. Rowling book covers featuring wizards, fabulous winged beasts and gleaming steam trains! :wink:
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Wayne Pyer » 19 Jan 2015, 11:40

I found the book, heart wrenching in places, very powerful and very moving. Politics aside, I found myself wanting to interact/intervene.

Tragic in places, uplifting in others, it must be admired that JKR can be so effective with words.
Not to give too much away, I found it wonderful and frustrating in equal measure. Definitely worth a read. :D
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Deej » 19 Jan 2015, 13:04

Agree Wayne. I'm looking to read her two other books now as well. They're both crime-fiction novels - The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm. I like Rowling's distinctive writing style and she can clearly write over a large number of different genres.

I'd definitely recommending reading the book and watching the TV series, Anita :)
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby lizarfau » 19 Jan 2015, 23:03

It took me a while to get into The Casual Vacancy - it's very grim - but once I did, I liked it a lot. It's very Dickensian in the way it provides a social commentary on contemporary Britain. I thought her teenaged characters were the best developed, though, which isn't surprising given her success with Harry Potter.

I enjoyed The Cuckoo's Cuckoo's Calling more, but haven't read the second Cormoran Strike book yet. I think it's great that she's writing in other genres, especially after the phenomenal success she had with Harry Potter.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Deej » 20 Jan 2015, 12:45

Thanks for your insight, lizarfau.
I've always enjoyed reading JK Rowling as an author, growing up reading the Harry Potter series. They really were a big part of my childhood, so was Blyton of course ;)
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby burlingtonbertram » 01 Mar 2015, 12:19

I've been watching the BBC version of this. Has anyone that has read the book got any thoughts?

The televised version is okay; chewing gum for the eyes. "Midsomer Murders" (sans murders) meets "Shameless".
In true BBC liberal (with a small L) fashion we are clearly meant to hate the snobbier members of the parish council. Having seen the residents of The Fields I can't help sympathising. If I was on that parish council I wouldn't just be moving their facilities; I'd be digging a ditch and building a check-point.

For any keen eyed forumites, this post will seem to contradict my last post about snobbery on another thread. I'll defend it against such accusations though; I've seen zero redeeming qualities in The Field's characters so far. Maybe that will change in episode three? It's all to play for as we go into the final round....
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Deej » 01 Mar 2015, 21:15

I've read the book and I don't believe the TV version does it any justice. Its rushed, misses large parts out from the book, makes strange changes and doesn't really go into the trouble of explaining what its all meant to be about. So no wonder those who haven't read the book are left feeling confused.

There is no in-depth portrayal of the characters either, so its little surprise that the viewer is left feeling little sympathy for the complex and problematic lives of the people on the estate.

I'd definitely recommend reading the book where you'll find out a lot more about the back story of the likes of Terri Weedon for instance.

And, yes, Burlington, I think the way both the book and TV series are constructed is for the audience to hate the middle class, Conservative, anti-Fields 'snobs' on the Parish Council and take the side of those on the estate and the people on the council (the Labour ones) fighting for the Fields to remain a part of Pagford.

PS. Just seen the series finale and I was disappointed with the BIG changes that were made. In the book, Robbie drowns in the river not Krystal and Fats and Krystal leave Robbie alone in the book to have sex, not just to talk and nor do they break-up or have a baby. It's also Sukhvinder (Parminder's daughter) who we see barely anything of in the TV series (she's always on them headphones) who tries to save Robbie, not her father Vikram.

Overall - disappointing.
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Re: The Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 02 Mar 2015, 10:43

* SPOILERS *


It's interesting to read your views, Deej, especially regarding the ending. I went ahead and watched the TV serial without having had time to read the book and, as you said, I felt we needed to know a lot more about the characters' backgrounds to understand the situation properly. The characters I liked or had some sympathy for were Barry, Krystal, Robbie, Andrew (Arf), Gaia and Kay - i.e. a mixture of middle-class characters and estate characters. I wasn't drawn to one "faction" or the other. In fact, I can't say I was drawn to either of them! I really couldn't stand Stuart (Fats) or Simon (Andrew's criminal father, who took great pleasure in bullying his sons).

About Sweetlove House, did we actually see people making much use of it? It seemed to me to be underused - people vandalised it or went there to get counselling or methadone, but were there many activities there? The lovely countryside also seemed to be ignored by the residents. As for the way the library was used by some...!

When we saw a couple showing interest in moving into Pagford, I could only feel horror. Pretty as some of the buildings were, and the surrounding countryside, it seemed a horrible place in which to live - really insular and isolated, with everyone knowing everyone's business.
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