Book Report: The Casual Vacancy

Most people that have been reading this blog for awhile know that I’m a pretty avid reader, and try my best to stay on top of the buzziest fiction, nonfiction, and YA fiction alike (in fact, stay tuned for my top picks in each of those categories come Christmastime!) Every year it seems there are one or two books that become publishing juggernauts, and where I often make an effort to read these types of books close to their release date, I’m happy to share them with you. Because here’s the thing: when everyone is talking about it, you really do want to know what it’s all about before you buy it as a no-brainer gift idea for a friend or family member. With that in mind, when these massive books hit the shelves, I’m going to try and give you all a little unconventional peek into the book – a try before you buy, if you will – in the form of answering five questions that might be running through your head when browsing the bookshelves, be they real or digital. Without further ado, let’s talk about The Casual Vacancy.

What’s the buzz? JK Rowling is one of the world’s wealthiest women, and authors, after selling over 450 million copies of her treasured Harry Potter children’s series. Although some authors may have been content to hang up their hats after that kind of staggering success, Rowling took a few years off before picking up her virtual pen to write her first novel for adults, which just hit the shelves on September 27th and quickly climbed to the top of major book charts.

What’s the story? A beloved (and somewhat stubborn) local politician of a small British town dies unexpectedly, leaving a ‘casual vacancy’ on Pagford’s Parish Council, in a role that is essentially equivalent to being Mayor. Various members of the town start jockeying for the spot, motivated by everything from finding a shortcut in life to paying homage to an old friend to being pumped up by some particularly calculating parents. The most important issue on the table? Redirecting an unsavory government housing area that is currently the bane of Pagford’s picture postcard existence to be maintained by their nearly invisible (and less desirable) northern neighbours, Yarvil. The twenty or so characters that colour the pages of Rowling’s novel are all tied to this core plot element, but they each have their own meandering daily experiences – from boyhood crushes to loathsome in-laws to tenuous family situations, every little thread of each character’s story builds up to shape the overall arc, whether each character realizes it or not.

I’ve read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series…will I like this? That’s a tough one in many ways. What was revered about Harry Potter was the fact it was incredibly sophisticated for a children’s series. The same could be said of Rowling’s adult outing – it’s an incredibly sophisticated book for adults. If you (or your giftee) loves literary fiction in the vein of Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) or Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) they’ll probably adore the incredible layered story taking place here, and find the beauty in the minutiae that Rowling picks up. If they’re expecting a moving yet light read a la Potter, they may be frustrated at how dense the book is. Both, of course, are incredibly well-written – so there’s that.

What makes this a ‘book for adults’? Sex, drugs, swearing – it’s all on the table in this one. Freed from the shackles of first kisses and shy glances, Rowling’s adult book is not suitable for young fans of her writing. Interestingly it tackles a lot of the same issues Potter dipped its toe in – class, poverty, the misabuse of power, rebellion, and of course, politics – but it grounds the book in a very real, darkly comic reality. There are no veiled references here; what you read is what you get, and it’s not always a pretty picture.

Who should read this book? Truthfully, and what makes this an interesting mega-release, I wouldn’t necessarily say Rowling fans. The only real similarities between the two are jabs of dry British humour, the English setting, and the quality of writing. That’s not to say Rowling fans won’t like the book, but it is to say it’s totally based on what you appreciated about her writing. I’d say don’t gift this to anyone younger than University age – not because of its ‘adult’ subject matter, but simply because any younger, and I think you’d have a hard time grasping it. If your giftee loves to read, stays on top of the major literary awards, or is the de facto queen of your book club? Then you’ve got a winner on your hands. One final note: what may actually work against Rowling is her body of work to date. Literary snobs may look down on ‘that wizard author’, while Potter fans may be shell-shocked at the leap up in difficulty. Be prepared to prepare your giftee with just why you chose it for them, if you think they fall in that sweet spot of both appreciating the book and adoring the author’s talent.

BONUS: Are you by chance giving a copy away? You bet! Here’s how to enter:

1) Leave a comment by November 1st on why you’d like to read JK Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy.

2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around November 2nd to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.

3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.

4) Bonus Entry: Like Hachette Book Group on Facebook to get the latest on their releases! Drop your username in the comments below. 

75 Responses to “Book Report: The Casual Vacancy”
  1. Jennifer Deol says:

    I would definitely be interested in reading, “Casual Vacancy” because I do like well-written literature. J.K.Rowling has probably got a surprising audience with this one.

  2. Donnas says:

    I’ve read the Harry Potter series and so am therefore interested in J.K. Rowling’s adult novel.

  3. Donnas says:

    I like Hachette Book Group on Facebook as Donna Lee.

  4. I really want to read her forst adult fiction book. I read all the harry Potter books and loved them. I already like Hachette Bood Group on Facebook

  5. Sandy says:

    The harry potter series is still to this day my favourite books and at 21 I still read them every few years! I really want to read this book as well!

  6. Ashley says:

    That’s funny you mention Jonathan Franzen as that’s one of my mom’s favourite authors. I’d love to win this book so we could both read it and talk about it.

  7. Leigh Ann LeBlanc says:

    I would love to read this book. I enjoyed the Harry Potter books as a youth, but now at 30, I’d like to try her adult fiction.

  8. Leah M says:

    I loved the Harry potter series and I want to check out her writing for adults

  9. Sylvia says:

    I have never read any Harry Potter books, because I have not been into children’s books for more than 35 years. The new book for adults may be more my style. I also happen to love books in an English setting. So this book may be just what I need to sink my teeth into.

  10. Crystal Gwynn says:

    I would enjoy reading this book along with my two daughters who have recommending this author to me though I have not yet read any others. This would be a good start.

  11. Crystal Gwynn says:

    *Who have recommended this authour…typo!

  12. kittypride says:

    I would love a chance to read JK Rowling’s new book, I’ve read a couple of reviews and it sounds very intriguing.

  13. Cathy M says:

    I would love to win this book. Sounds so good

  14. Cathy M says:

    I like Hachette Book Group on Facebook ( Catharine Lou)

  15. Holly Sproule says:

    I would just like to read something different from J K Rowling

  16. mickey53 says:

    Something different from Rowling.

  17. LINDA says:

    I would love to read J. K. Rowling’s first novel geared primarily to adults.

  18. Patricia says:

    I’ve read everything else she has written and it would be interesting to see if I thought this was better, worse or averaging the same.

  19. Anne Derkat says:

    I’ve never read any of her books so I think it’s time I did…

  20. Hayden says:

    I can’t get enough of JK Rowling’s writing. challenging or not, this is 100% on my to-read list.

  21. angela m says:

    I actually want to win this to give as a gift to my sister who is a huge fan.

  22. angela m says:

    Like Hachette Group on Facebook
    Angela Mitchell

  23. Helen D. says:

    I would love to find out what all the buzz is about. I admire Rowling inspiring many readers both young and old with her Potter books.

  24. debbie f says:

    I would like to win this book – haven’t read her novels before and this looks like a good one to start with.

    • Sue Leonhardt says:

      I have read all the Harry Potter books, and I would like to see how she could surpass the huge followings she had with the Harry Potter novels.I would like to read this novel and I am very intrigued about what she would say.

  25. Michael G says:

    I want to know what happened to Harry, Ron, and Hermione after the last book!

  26. Susan says:

    I’m in a huge “hold” line at the library for this book and would love to have a copy of my own. I’m an avid reader and a huge J.K. Rowling fan. As well, I love books set in England! #CGG

  27. Susan says:

    My FB name is Susan Huston and I like Hachette Book Group!

  28. Persephone says:

    This one is sure to make all of the top reads lists for 2012 so naturally it’s on my reads list!

  29. Steve Bobula says:

    I’ve read the Harry Potter series…I would love to Read more literature from J.K.Rowling. Thanks

  30. Debbie Petch says:

    I would love to read Ms. Rowling’s new book! I have good things about it. Thanks.

  31. Evan says:

    I’d like to read the book as Rowling has really built up a strong following off the major international success of the Potter franchise over the years. Very talented.

  32. Sophia says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and would love to see what Rowling brings to her first novel for adults!

  33. Victoria says:

    I love the Harry Potter series and think that she’s an amazing author who would write well in other genres also.

  34. julia g says:

    I want to read it because I want to see how she deals with the enormous pressure of writing anything else.

  35. julia g says:

    liked on Facebook as Julia Grant

  36. sean pynaert says:

    I’d like to read what else she has in store after harry potter.

  37. Sarah says:

    I like how the ads on this site match the book. But seriously, who WOULDN’T want to read the BUZZIEST book of the year?

  38. Janet says:

    Looks like a great Read!!!

  39. stellar says:

    I would love toread JK Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy becuase it is her first novel geared to an adult audience. I never read the Harry Potter series as it did not appeal to me but The Casual Vacancy sounds very interesting.

  40. DARYL MOAD says:

    Because it’s so instantly famous, I’d like to read it!

  41. Marlene V. says:

    I think she is a very good author and would love to read other books written by her.

  42. louisa says:

    I’m curious to learn more about her writing style – when she is free of the commitment to the HP series and was carte blanche to write whatever she wanted … must feel risky.

  43. Kim O'Reilly says:

    I loved reading the Harry Potter books and I expect Casual Vacancy to be a good read also.

  44. Michelle Nesbitt says:

    I would love to read J K Rowling’s first adult fiction book. Thanks for the opportunity to win it.

  45. beewbedard says:

    Would like to see hoe different this book is compared to her other ones

  46. beewbedard says:

    Liked Hachette Book Group on Facebook
    Brenda Witherspoon-Bedard

  47. Hannah says:

    I’d be curious to see if their were any nods to HP. I know you said they’re quite different but there has to be some similarity somewhere, maybe just in her style.

  48. Zorry says:

    As someone who grew up reading the Harry Potter books, I’d like to see how JK Rowling handles adult fiction.

  49. Linda Horricks says:

    I really enjoyed her Harry Potter series of books, and while this is completely different, I admire her and have a keen interest in what she’s written for adults.

  50. Linda Horricks says:

    I’d love to read The Casual Vacancy as I’ve really enjoyed her Harry Potter novels, and followed her career. This is for a different audience, but I think it could be a great read.

  51. Lori P says:

    I’ve been following the release of this book from Day One, including articles, reviews, and interviews on radio and TV (great interview on ‘Charlie Rose’). The more I learn, the more it piques my curiosity. Definitely at the top of my ‘To Read’ list.

  52. Lori P says:

    Follow Hachette Book Group on Facebook (Lori Provenzano).


    I’d love to read Ms. Rowling’s new book. I am sure it has a great plot and interesting characters…..she really made her Harry Potter series come alive by using such diverse people. Her imagination is only topped by her talent.

  54. Hayden says:

    Are you kidding? This has been on my to-read list since the very first day I spotted it on GoodReads! I also like Hachette on FB!

  55. Sunshine G says:

    I would love to read it – want to see how she translates her style into adult fiction!

  56. Sadie says:

    My mom reads all the big award-winners every year, i wonder if this book will be up for any of them. If yes, I definitely want to grab this for her.

  57. Kiki says:

    I’m a HUGE Rowling fan and I am very interested to see how she transitions to an adult-aimed novel.

  58. Rochelle says:

    Like most people, I’m a HP fan so I want to read whatever she puts out, ever. But also, I just love a good book in the wintertime.

  59. Janet says:

    Looks like a great read!!
    Harry Potter Books were great to!!!

  60. Annabelle says:

    I’ve heard her writing compared to Margot Livesey or Lionel Shriver. I’d love to read it because of that.

  61. Marlene says:

    Leave a comment by November 1st on why you’d like to read JK Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy- it would be interesting to see translates her style into this adult novel.

  62. Quinn says:

    Cool review. I was iffy about this one, but I’m kind of curious now…

  63. Linda says:

    Would love to see the different styling of her writing as compared to the Harry Potter series.

  64. Anne says:

    . I’d love to read The Casual Vacancy. I’ve never read any of her Harry Potter books but I do enjoy Jonathan Franzen and have read all of his. Some reviews say it’s of the same genre, so bring it on.

  65. darlene boyle says:

    high hopes that it’s as good as harry potter

  66. Brook says:

    I am an avid reader! Once done with one, another is in my hand. I would be very curious to read another genre fron her…

  67. Rowena says:

    I’ve read the HP books at least five times each. Time for some fresh amterial from JK

  68. Jayne Cameron says:

    Very interested in reading this book….Loved the Harry Potter series and I can only imagine this one is a great read.

  69. Candida says:

    I actually DIDN’T like the first Harry Potter book, and quit it halfway through. That being said, I’d be willing to give JK Rowling another shot and this book might be the ticket.

  70. Suzanne Anderson says:

    Can Rowling write adult fiction? Love to find out.

  71. Ali says:

    As a library school student, and a fan of the Harry Potter books, this just seems right up my alley! 🙂

  72. caroline m. says:

    I want to read it because I loved the Harry Potter series and I’m curious as to how she writes for adults.

  73. caroline m. says:

    userid cotec007 on fb liked Hachette

  74. Bons says:

    I’ve liked J.K. Rowling ever since her Harry Potter series came out. I was disappointed when I finished reading the last book in the series – felt kinda empty knowing it was the end. I’m excited about her new book, The Casual Vacancy, and hope I will have the opportunity to read it by winning this great contest!

    Have liked Hachette on FB (Bons Leung).

Tell me what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: