Thursday, November 19

12x12: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling

J bought me this book right when it came out... about three years ago, when we were still living in Iowa City. I'm terrible, I know. I think I didn't read it right away at the time because I was already in the middle of another book and I am NOT the kind of reader who can go back and forth between them. I must have started this at some point back then, because I found pressed flowers in the book when I opened it up this time, and the first chapter seemed familiar.

What I Loved:

  • I really love the way J.K. Rowling writes. I think she does a great job conveying emotions and developing characters, and this book really showed those skills. There's a TON of characters and character development throughout the book, and they do seem like real people. They're flawed, they're emotional, and I thought the writing was great throughout the entire book.
  • Once I got into it, I really couldn't put it down. I don't know if that was entirely due to the book and not a tiny bit because I could read another Harry Potter book after, but there you have it. Probably the last third of it, I was dying to keep reading and things started moving a lot faster.
  • It gave me some insight to life in England in a distinctly non-wizarding way. It made me think about how people live in small towns, as well as our biases and bigotries. It was definitely the most "adult" book I've read in a long time, and in a way, I think that in and of itself was good for me. People in the book deal with a lot of complex, mature issues, and it was a lot darker than I expected - but in a good way.

What I Wasn't Crazy About:

  • Boy, this book was hard to get into. For example, I'm currently reading the 5th Harry Potter book right now. I started it on Friday. Today's Thursday, and I'm almost done with it. I started The Casual Vacancy in AUGUST. It's now NOVEMBER. There was a long period of time where I was stressed because of school, but my theory is we find time to read when we want to read. And to be honest, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book. It's very adult-y and has the feel of a murder mystery, which is not my genre of choice. 
  • More than anything, the chapters switch viewpoints between characters. Is this normally a problem for me? No, not at all. But there are about 10-15 characters to switch in between, and J.K. Rowling doesn't explain how they're connected right away. You'll hear about "Simon" and have a whole chapter from his point of view. Then three chapters later, "Andrew" is the narrator and it takes you a page and a half to realize that he's Simon's son. The characters don't look at the same events from different perspectives - time keeps moving, so you're getting bits and pieces as you go along. It's a complex way of writing a book, and while part of me loves it for that reason, it also made it really hard to get into the book because you're not allowed to be attached to any characters. About halfway through the book, you get used to the characters and format and it gets a ton easier to read, but that first half is difficult to plow through.
  • This is probably stupid to think, but I was a little shocked by some of the descriptions in the book. Some of the characters are teenage boys, and they're thinking about sex and talking about  getting "pants-feels" as I will call them, and ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT IS HARRY POTTER. I literally just kept thinking, "Did Harry Potter have pants feels like this? What if J.K. Rowling had written the Harry Potter series and talked about boners and stuff? That would  have been strange!" Reading J.K. Rowling write about sex felt kind of like listening to your parents discuss sex. Unfair of me to feel weird about it? Totally, but there you go.

Would I Recommend This Book?

  • It depends - if you like mystery or detective books, you may like this a lot! Personally, the genre just wasn't for me, but I did find it really enjoyable as the book went on. It was definitely different than what I'm used to reading, but again, it was really well-written and I applaud J.K. Rowling for doing something different after the Harry Potter books! This has been made into a series on HBO and I'm actually really excited to watch it now that I'm done with the book.

Have you ever read this book? What did you think about it? Would you recommend it?

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