Synopsis: The sudden death of councilor Barry Fairbrother has left the town of Pagford in shock. Soon the candidates for his empty council seat find themselves not at war with each other, but with whoever is posting their deepest secrets on the town’s internet discussion forum.
Author: This is the first adult novel from JK Rowling, author of the acclaimed Harry Potter series.
Pacing: This is my primary complaint about the book, as I found the pacing of the entire story to be very slow. There were so many characters to keep straight, and each one is key to the story, that I admit I cheated at times by using a character guide published by The Telegraph, as I had a hard time following character relationships for most of the book.
POV: The perspective was always changing that at times I found it difficult to follow. Too many characters, and too many subplots.
Plot/Subplot: The main storyline is the death of councilmember Barry Fairbrother and the by-election for his vacant seat. The many subplots involving the candidates and/or their family members involve child abuse, drug use, rape, and prostitution. I felt there was too much going on and the book suffered as a result. I understand that Rowling was trying to tell the story of the town and its people, but I also feel this could have been achieved to a greater effect by focusing on half the number of people than she did.
Character: In the end, out of the 30-some characters, the character of Krystal Weedon was the only one to stand out for me –most likely because the last bit of the book is almost entirely about her. She lived in a horrible situation and was trying to do right by her little brother, but in the end her own motives were her end.
Character Development: With 30-plus different characters, each playing a nearly equal role in the story, I felt they all could have used some more development. Because of this, some of the actions of the characters at first felt unbelievable but on further reflection (and in some cases hypothesizing) my thoughts changed. The death of Robbie, Krystal`s brother felt like it was a forced “well, this will do” moment, yet it had to happen to set up Krystal’s final action and the ultimate end of the book.
Personal Thoughts: I truly believe this could have been a really good book, if not a great book, had Rowling chosen to focus on a few core characters rather than such a large group. Don’t get me wrong, I am a JK Rowling fan and I wasn’t expecting writing like in Harry Potter, but I also didn’t expect this. Perhaps she should have published it under a pen name, but I also think if it wasn’t for her name, this book would not be as received as it is.
Quote: “You must accept the reality of other people. You think that reality is up for negotiation, that we think it’s whatever you say it is. You must accept that we are as real as you are; you must accept that you are not God.”
The Verdict: To be honest, I am not a fan of this book. I would not read it again due to the confusing structure, multitudes of characters, and overall slow pacing. For those reasons I doubt I would recommend it to anyone either. Though I am disappointed in The Casual Vacancy, I look forward to what she writes next.