Audiobook recommendation- The Casual Vacancy

Where is this thing going?

So, for us last year it was all about J. K. Rowling, as we spent almost 6 months re-reading all 8 books in the Harry Potter series (inclusive of the ‘Cursed Child’). And since then, I wanted to read all of J. K. Rowling’s books, anything that I could get my hands on. And from the library service which I’m subscribed to, I was surprised to find that they have each and every one of J. K. Rowling’s creations, from ‘Quidditch Through the Ages’ to the Cormoran Strike detective series (which is pretty much a Muggle Mad-eye Moody).  To date I’ve powered through the magazine sized Hogwarts textbooks/library books, battled through the Cuckoo’s Calling, but I’m really struggling with ‘The Casual Vacancy’. Boy, it’s a hard read.

For those who aren’t familiar with J. K. Rowling’s first novel after the Harry Potter series (and first book for adults), it’s based on every-day characters living out their normal every-day lives in a small country-town. The story begins with a middle aged man who suddenly drops dead from a suspected stroke,  he being a member of the Parish council thus leaving a “Casual Vacancy” on the council board. And the story is about the ripple effects of his death on the town folk. Doesn’t sound very riveting hey?  I’d described it to a friend, and the best way to describe it was like imagining the first chapters of every Harry Potter book when he’s back at 4 Privet Drive, and the Casual Vacancy feels like that. And if you’re like me, and you hated those opening chapters when Harry Potter is stuck in the Muggle world, then you’re not going to like this book at all.

Thinking about it now, it was like J. K. Rowling needed to write a book completely different and opposite to her previous works, like a therapeutic method to rid herself of the spirit of Harry Potter. And maybe it’s because of this, is why The Casual Vacancy is so different? 

Where HP was glorious fantasy where it swept the reader away from their reality. However,  The Casual Vacancy (hence forth to be referred to as TCV) was completely rooted in normality, boring old reality. So much so, that when I was talking to a friend who had worked as a Social Worker, I gave her a heads-up that one of the characters was a Social Worker, so she might want to avoid the book to avoid being reminded of her old job.

Where HP’s storyline was purely focused on Harry and no one else, in TCV there isn’t a main character but jumps from character to character. jumping around so frequently that most times it takes me a few minutes to work out which character it is anymore- as they’re names are so drab and boring (and it’s probably my fault as I’m starting and stopping the book every other day). And it’s probably due to this, is the reason why I’m not invested into the book, as I honestly don’t care about any of the characters.

Where HP avoided all controversial topics (it was a children’s book Afterall), TCV raised my eyebrows several times already, leaving me to wonder “oh really? Is that J. K’s opinion?”. As although she might be writing from the point of view of an abusive husband or a bigot, however, to manifest the character I imagine she has to insert some of her own views, even if it’s heavily reliant on stereotype’s.

Where each HP book had a very clear plotline, 6 hours in (a third of the book) I still don’t really know where this story is going or how it’s going to land!

And finally, where HP was a page turner where you wished each book was twice as long, TCV has taken me 6 weeks to get through 6 hours. And there’s still 11 hours to go! Argh!!!! So, it’s a Harry Potter sized book, but without the driving storyline to help readers along.

I honestly haven’t struggled through a book like this before, I would usually give up on a bad book a few hours in if it was this hard going. But the only thing which keeps me going is this……. I trust J. K. Rowling, I trust that she has a story to tell, and sooner or later I’m going to understand her magnificence! And because of that hope, I’m going to keep persisting on!

I’ve made an active effort to avoid all online reviews, as I’m avoiding spoilers. But I want to have this recorded in writing, at the 38% point of the book, I’m still trusting in you J. K. Rowling! I’m trusting that you’re going to bring this baby home with a remarkable safe landing, and the passengers (your fans) will be cheering in their seats as the metaphoric wheels of this nightmare flight touches down. I’m still believing for that. So yeah, fingers crossed that J. K. doesn’t let me down.

I’m fully setting myself up for disappointment right? *Smile*. It feels like I need to write a part 2, straight after I finish the book to capture my thoughts and feelings when all is revealed, but at this rate it’s not going to happen in the next 11 weeks. D’oh!

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