Book Reviews

Book Review: Casual Vacancy


Synopsis (Goodreads):

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils … Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?


I got into this book with no idea of what to expect at all. Let me start by saying that this book is nothing like Harry Potter and I didn’t expect it to be like that at all. While I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I am not too immersed into it at the same time. I guess this is due to the fact that I didn’t grow up with the books, so I don’t have that really strong emotional connection to the whole thing. Therefore, it wasn’t hard for me to not compare between them.

I had this book for three years and in these three years; I heard very few good things about the book, and a lot of negative things about it and about the BBC adaptation of the book. I am not going to lie; all the negative reviews discouraged me from reading this book. As a matter of fact, if the book wasn’t gifted to me, I wouldn’t buy it because from the synopsis, it doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy reading, but since I already have it, I might as well read it at some point of my life.

Casual Vacancy takes place in the small town of Pagford, and it start with the death of Barry Fairbrother. After the death of Barry, nothing much happens. I found the story pace really slow and it bored me a little bit that I had to stop multiple times during one setting. I wondered where is the story going. But, once I passed the first 200 pages, things picked a little bit and the pace slightly changed and the story started to become a little bit interesting.

As for the characters, there are so many characters in this book and each one of them played an important role into developing the events of the story. So, it will be hard to talk about one or two of them. However, what I want to say is that even though these characters are really different, I didn’t like any of them. I couldn’t connect with them. They were, however, well developed and well written and I liked that. I liked how each character had their own unique personality.

This book is an adult and so there was a lot of talk about sex, prostitution and pedophilia, which was too much. I understand that this book is an adult book, but the constant mentioning of sex was really annoying and for most of the time, it was unnecessary, and I believe that if the novel was stripped of about 50% of all that, it would’ve been a little bit better. It was uncomfortable to read these parts; I found them a little bit pornographic.

One of the things that I enjoyed the most is the different themes that the book discussed and approached. The main themes were, the social issues and the political issues and poverty. I liked how the story dived into discussing social topics like, racism, heroin and marijuana use, domestic abuse, child abuse, self-harm and suicide. However, the political part took over the majority of the book.

I liked the writing style, the way the story flowed even though it was slow paced. Everything was connected, nothing felt off or missing and that was great because the book had lots of characters and each one of them had a different story but they were all connected with each other.

The novel had humor in it as well, not so much and definitely not the laugh out loud kind of humor and the wittiness that we are used to in the Harry Potter books. The humor in this book was dark and a slightly Gothic, but I fairly enjoyed that. It doesn’t have to be in your face comedy for it to be funny and I like that.

Overall, the book wasn’t bad or good, even though judging from the first 200 pages, I predicted that it would be bad. But, it wasn’t that bad; it was somewhere in between. Did I love the book? No. Did I like it? Not so much, but I am nonetheless glad that I finally read it because I had it for three years and only now I decided it to read it, and I finally have an opinion of my own about the book regardless of what everyone is saying.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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