Monday, June 9, 2014
I wanted to love The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but mostly I just felt ambivalent (and a little angry).
I'll be the first to admit that I read it because Rowling wrote it. In fact, the reason it took me so long to read is because I didn't think the story itself sounded that enthralling, but come on, she created Harry Potter!! Of course, I'll love something she writes. Ehhh, maybe not.
First of all, The Casual Vacancy starts really slow. Like glacial speed. Even 150 pages in, I was hoping it would pick up. Then there are the characters. If I was going to make any allusions to Harry Potter in the review of the book, it'd be this: The town of Pagford is full of Vernon Dursleys. It's like the worst place on earth. I hope there isn't actually a Pagford (it's okay, I just checked and there isn't. Bless Google) because if there was no one would be able to live there. Frankly, part of the reason I kept reading was because I wanted these characters to have some justice brought down upon them. Like generally speaking, I don't read books where everyone has the "real life" exception. I want bad guys brought down and good guys rewarded. I don't want subversion of fairy tales and folk tales, I want the enactment of them. And I think wishing for a character's retribution is a horrible reason to keep reading something.
By the end of the book, I was mildly caught up in the character's lives, but mostly (as I just mentioned) because I wanted them to be punished. And I was disappointed by the ending. Even though all the characters have some amount of closure, I didn't find it gratifying personally.
So I guess I would suggest this book to people who enjoy character studies without much action. I wouldn't suggest it to Potter lovers and I wouldn't suggest it to people who think they should read it for Rowlings' sake. It the summary doesn't grab you, don't grab the book.
"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."
"He never seemed to grasp the immense mutability of human nature, nor to appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own."
"But who could bear to know which stars were already dead [...] could anybody stand to know that they all were?"