The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s much-anticipated departure from the genre of children’s fantasy, is a sprawling homage to the Victorian protest novel.... Rowling has clearly thought long and felt deeply about the ills of modern society. Her success has given her a platform, and she intends to use it.... At times, though, it feels as if everything Rowling ever wanted to say about anything has been thrown together here, without taking care to determine whether all these ideas detract from or complement one another. Editing occasionally involves saving a novelist from him- or herself.... A thoughtful edit might have removed many of the stylistic slippages. Rowling is at the height of her creative powers: there might have been a good, possibly even great, 300-page social novel inside the 500-page tear-jerker we have instead.
New York Times Book Review
A positively propulsive read.
Wall Street Journal
This book represents a truckload of shrewdness.... There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully.... Genuinely moving.
An insanely compelling page-turner.... The Casual Vacancy is a comedy, but a comedy of the blackest sort, etched with acid and drawn with pitch.... Rowling proves ever dexterous at launching multiple plot lines that roar along simultaneously, never entangling them except when she means to. She did not become the world's bestselling author by accident. She knows down in her bones how to make you keep turning the pages.
The Daily Beast
Rowling knows how to write a twisty, involving plot.... She is clearly a skilled writer.
The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read.... A stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today.
The Mirror (UK)
A study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot.... The Casual Vacancy immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world.... Intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny.
The Guardian (UK)
A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff.... Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight.
On the face of it, Rowling’s first adult book is very different from the Harry Potter books that made her rich and famous. It’s resolutely unmagical: the closest thing to wizardry is the ability to hack into the amateurish Pagford Parish Council Web site. Instead of a battle for worldwide domination, there’s a fight over a suddenly empty seat on that Council, the vacancy of the title. Yet despite the lack of invisibility cloaks and pensieves, Pagford isn’t so different from Harry’s world. There’s a massive divide between the haves and the have-nots—the residents of the Fields, the council flats that some want to push off onto a neighboring county council. When Councilor Barry Fairbrother—born in Fields but now a middle-class Pagforder—dies suddenly, the fight gets uglier. In tiny Pagford, and at its school, which caters to rich and poor alike, everyone is connected: obstreperous teenager Krystal Weedon, the sole functioning member of her working-class family, hooks up with the middle-class son of her guidance counselor; the social worker watching over Krystal’s drug-addled mother dates the law partner of the son of the dead man’s fiercest Council rival; Krystal’s great-grandmother’s doctor was Fairbrother’s closest ally; the daughters of the doctor and the social worker work together, along with the best friend of Krystal’s hookup; and so on. Rowling is relentlessly competent: all these people and their hatreds and hopes are established and mixed together. Secrets are revealed, relationships twist and break, and the book rolls toward its awful, logical climax with aplomb. As in the Harry Potter books, children make mistakes and join together with a common cause, accompanied here by adults, some malicious, some trying yet failing. Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren’t much fun.
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