Today we are posting our general and early impressions of the novel with NO spoilers. So even if you aren't participating in the read-along, feel free to read on!
It has been one week since The Casual Vacancy was published and I've made it through the first third of the novel. I was a bit overwhelmed with the first few chapters, as we were introduced to a new character on every page, or so it seemed. As I read on things started to come together, only to become a bit stagnant. Yes, so far, I am not head over heels. This isn't to say it's bad; Rowlings writing is fantastic. She can certainly capture a feeling or detail in a way that allows me to imagine it wholly. However, in terms of plot and even character development it feels a little bland. To be fair though, I am only a third of the way through and I have no doubt things will (hopefully) pick up.
From what I've read so far, one device that stands out is Rowling's portrayal of Pagford and its foil, Yarvil. Pagford represents the "English idyll... cupped in a hallow between three hills, one of which was crested with the remains of the twelfth-century abbey. A thin river snaked around the edge of the hill and through town, straddled by a toy stone bridge." Of course this is in contrast to the long-hated town of Yarvil, filled with unemployed drug addicts who frequent rehab. When social worker Kay Bawden visits a family in Yarvil, she notes the griminess of it all:
Bits of rubbish had tumbled or been scattered over the scrubby patch of lawn, but the bulk of it remained piled beneath one of the two downstairs windows. A bald tire sat in the middle of the lawn... After ringing the doorbell, Kay noticed a used condom glistening in the grass beside her feet, like the gossamer cocoon of some huge grub.In my opinion, Rowling has succeeded in establishing a detailed and impressive sense of place that encompasses these two contrasting towns - now I'd like to see where this leads. Like I mentioned before, as far as characters go, there are many. I'm starting to get a better sense of what drives each and exactly how varied they all are. Thus far, I'd have to say I really enjoy Andrew. Maybe I have taken a liking because he is an underdog of sorts, or maybe it's because I find his thoughts damn funny. Either way, I look forward to learning what Andrew has got in store for us. It seems as though he may turn out to be a moderator of sorts, in contrast to his hard-headed father.
In addition, I would like to address all the body parts Rowling describes; we have encountered, thus far, balls, penises, breasts, and boners. We read a confession from a virgin who exclaims "Lots of pushing to get in properly. It's tighter than I thought". These descriptions don't feel out of place and I think they add even more color to an already diverse novel.
All in all, do I love The Casual Vacancy? Not yet, though it may be too soon to tell. What I will say is I'm happy to read something so different from Harry Potter. Regardless of any expectations I had going into this, I was not expecting a story like this. And for that, I'd like to congratulate Rowling.
If you are participating in the read-along, feel free to link up your first post below! We will be posting our final thoughts next Thursday.