Alright, a week after I was supposed to, I finished The Casual Vacancy. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Will it be one of my favorite reads this year? No. I liked the end well enough; it was powerful and memorable (albeit a bit contrived), but the rest of the novel was on the slower side. I felt the middle could have been edited down, as there were large sections that dragged. I will say if you have the perseverance to make your way though the middle, I think you'll be happy you did by the end. But the getting there was though for me; whenever I'd put down the book, I wasn't dying to pick it back up. I'm not exactly sure if it was me or the book but regardless, I felt no sense of urgency to finish this. (Clearly, as I missed our last read-along post, and I was hosting.)
Before the book was released, critics joked that an alternate title for the novel could have been Mugglemarch, pointing to it's similarities to George Eliot's Middlemarch, a book I've read twice and respect greatly. The main similarity I noted between The Casual Vacancy and Eliot's classic is that both revolve around a plethora of characters who are all interconnected in a web of dishonesty. That, and both novels lean towards the depressing side of human nature. But that's human nature; it's irrational, selfish, and ignorant. Rowling's novel explores this less than glamorous side of human nature, exposing its weaknesses through a number of imperfect characters.
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.The last thing I want to do is compare The Casual Vacancy to Harry Potter but what I will say is that if anything, Harry Potter proved that not only does Rowling have an incredible imagination, but she's got a gift for conveying her richly imagined worlds through her writing. In my opinion, there was nothing very imaginative about this novel. Of the ideas she presented, there was nothing new in the way she brought them forth. I did not feel challenged while reading her book (if you don't count my difficulty to finish it) and it all felt a bit mundane. What I will say is Rowling proved she can write adult fiction and she can write it well - her prose is crafted beautifully and her characters are well developed. I'm just hoping that her next novel is more absorbing and a little less trite.
Publisher: Little, Brown 2012
Read my initial thoughts on the novel here. I'd also like to thank Beth at Bookworm Meets Bookworm once more for co-hosting the read-along and for designing the lovely button you see above.