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English department


The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

There are many reasons to look into a book. You could catch an interested glance at the artwork framing the cover. Your ears could like the ring of the title. You could recognize the author’s name. For The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, the latter gave way to a decision. Having read older selections of work by J.K. Rowling, it was increasingly difficult to choose another book, having heard that her first adult novel was something to behold. But caution should come to anyone who decides to read based upon such thoughts.

If one would like to read this book for plot, don’t, for a reader will be disappointed. If one would like to read this book for a purpose distinct from creatively descriptive characters, don’t. For the characters are what makes this book complete and whole. J.K. Rowling spends lengthy time describing and enveloping each character in a cloth of multi-faceted personality traits, different from each other, yet coming together in the perfect symmetry of a novel bound to keep you flipping pages.

Almost right off the bat Rowling gives you a problem. “[They were]…contemplating the casual vacancy: and they saw it, not as an empty space but as a magician’s pocket, full of possibilities (pg 38).” The town has lost an important member of its council and the spot must be filled. But who shall fill it? Thus encompasses the whole of the plot for Rowling’s newest novel. What seems to be a book that has potential for thrill and excitement, only partially quenches a readers thirst for adventure. There is not much excitement, only seemingly pretentious drama, in-depth detail about each character and their lives, as well as how each character interacts with all of the others.

Not wanting to sound oxy-moronic, do not misunderstand the above sentiment. If a reader is not looking for detailed, multi-faceted plot, then this book has potential to be a breath of fresh air, filled with description to last a lifetime. For J.K. Rowling accomplishes just that. Each character jumps off the page in a way easily remembered after one has long since set the book down for the final time. Each family and all of their unique stories are completely realistic, and seem to be created simply so that each and every reader has someone to whom they can connect. Of course, without detailed study into the minds of each and every reader, whether or not this fact is actually truth is undetectable.

Personally, reading for a plot is a big deal, to be blunt. Disappointment followed by a small feeling of wasted time accompanied reading the whole of this novel. But then again, was this feeling inevitable considering the reading was prefaced with a taste for the author’s name? This is why it is encouraged that reader’s read this particular book for what it holds on its own. Do not compare it to other novels, particularly those written by J.K. Rowling. It is a slippery slope whose only result is the mire of discontentment and frustration.

This being said, personally, the recommendation would be to not purchase this book. Although the detail is extravagant and there was no problem in finding reason to flip the next page and finish Rowling’s novel, the themes and storyline did not seem to stick. No, this novel would not be considered a “failure” as a novel. On the contrary, Rowling did a rather spectacular job with the writing which was quite impressive. But on the other hand, it is not what was expected out of such a novel, and what the book did have to offer was not enough to compensate for what it did not have to offer.

This is the kind of book that one reads simply because one has the time; this is not to escape from problems or any other reason one reads a work of fiction. Honestly, if this book had not been on the list of books to choose from, it would have never been picked up. If it had been the same book but perhaps written by a different author, it would have been overlooked.

Hence the advice above stands. Read this book because it sounds interesting, not because you think it has potential to sound interesting. Read it for its own glory, and not for the glory of its brother and sister novels. Or don’t read the book. The choice is set upon the reader, and that is where it should stay.

By: ELIZABETH LAMOUREUX