Review: The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

I’ve been putting off reading The Casual Vacancy ever since its publication in 2012 for a multitude of reasons.

The two most prominent reasons, however, are as followed. One, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now you may have noticed a genre of books that typically either gets overlooked or hated by me and that is contemporary. Second, J.K. Rowling was such a defining author in my development as a reader that I was generally terrified she wasn’t going to live up to the pedestal I put her on.

And yet, as this is the year I am hoping to tackle a large part of my TBR pile, I knew I couldn’t say I accomplished much without tackling The Casual Vacancy.

Did the novel leave me wanting to read more contemporary fiction from J.K. Rowling? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

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13497818The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Publisher: Little Brown and Company (September 27, 2012)

Print Length: 503 pages

Audiobook Length: 17 hrs and 55 mins

Narrator: Tom Hollander

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?

The Review

You would think I would learn that contemporary fiction just isn’t my cup of tea, but here we are again, disappointed.

The Casual Vacancy follows the town of Pagford as they deal with the sudden death of Parish councilman Barry Fairbrother. While Pagford seems like the idyllic English town, it boasts unease between classes, races, ages, sexes, and everything in between.

As the first of Rowling’s publications following her success of the Harry Potter series, to say I had expectations is a complete understatement. I was excited, as much as one can be, to leave behind the series of my childhood, to grow and evolve as a mature consumer of Rowling’s writing. Instead, I didn’t find The Casual Vacancy as an evolution of J.K. Rowling’s writing. While reading the novel, I felt as if she was trying to write controversially just for the hell of it, rather than for an overarching reason, and instead of coming off as a masterpiece The Casual Vacancy came across as a flat imitation.

I found myself completely detached from the characters, not bothering to rewind the audiobook if it accidentally kept playing or if I found myself having questions about why a certain character had this motivation or that. The only characters that I genuinely wanted to see some sense of positive closure were Krystal and Robbie. Let me tell you, if you are waiting for this to happen, prepare to be sorely disappointed.

While I will continue to be intrigued by what J.K. Rolwing publishes in the future, for now I think I’ll stick to my Harry Potter rereads and my continual enjoyment of the Cormoran Strike series.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. Do you have a book recommendation that can get the sour taste of The Casual Vacancy out of my mouth? Leave it as a comment below and help my TBR grow.



  1. midnightamythest

    *slight spoilers*

    Yeah it’s not the greatest story, it basically throws all the generic contemporary tropes you can have into one story, and gives it a non-satisfying ending. And then the tv show does it worse by changing the ending.
    I feel if you look at the story as a tragedy and a what-not-to-do story it’s okay, but the tv show tries to make a happier ending to it, and makes me wonder what the point was to them adapting it in the first place if they effectively erased the ‘moral’ of the story, just to make it less depressing.


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