Blogging The Casual Vacancy, in conclusion

Yes, I am finally putting my final thoughts on paper, without spoilers, because even if I warn for spoilers, it bothers me that I might actually spoil someone’s discoveries and pleasure in reading. I do know people who won’t read the beginning of a book before they read the end. They want to know it ends in a way that is satisfying to them before they invest themselves emotionally in a book. All I can say about that is–I’m not sure this is your book, anyway. And yes, in my opinion, in ends brilliantly. But to jump ahead and read it out of order? Makes me shudder.

My earlier posts:

The Casual Vacancy, Part One

The Casual Vacancy, Olden Days

And then I stopped blogging my progress for numerous reasons.

The Casual Vacancy is social commentary, just as Dickens was social commentary. JK Rowling writes teenagers with such brilliance, and in this case, such brutality. This has none of the happy gloss that protected the reader in the Potter books, and instead, shows the vicious class warfare that exists in many adult hearts, and how it often shapes the lives of the young making it difficult to find a future beyond that of the narrow scope of their parents.

The Casual Vacancy also explores death, and how a community’s perceptions of an unexpected death or deaths can shape the future of the community–whether it’s three steps backward or one step forward.

The biggest problem in this book is the very deliberate choice to make this a story of various members of a village, rather than the story of a single member. We have no likable Oliver Twist or Harry Potter to give us an underdog to root for. Instead we have several equal points of view, none of whom are portrayed so generously. They are each portrayed with warts and flaws that make us eventually like them–if we do–despite their humanity, rather than because of it. The book is compelling, but it’s not comfortable.

I think it will make a powerful movie, and the movie most likely will choose one or two characters as its focus, as movies do.

Finally, at its heart is a young girl I knew from the beginning would possibly break my heart. She is the epitome of the kind of underdog that captures my imagination and heart in real life. And as I read her tale, it made me think of (forgive me) a few Dallas Cowboys who came from difficult circumstances and found fame and fortune–and in at least one case, whose story has yet to be fully lived. And I thought, how lucky–how absolutely lucky they were–to have athletic skills in a sport that has so much money involved. To be singled out and lifted up when so few are.

How fortunate, to be football players and not rowers.

Did I mention the end of the book was brilliant? Finally, the emotional catharsis I needed, the release.

I can’t figure out whether I would have liked this book better if it had been by an unknown author and I didn’t have any expectations about it, or whether I gave it extra credit because JKR wrote it. It could go either way. But the bottom line is, I never could erase from my mind who wrote it and how different it was from the Potter books, but by the end, I gave it full marks for being a damned good book that moved me.

I’d love to know what you thought about this book. Please start your comment with SPOILER if you use one.

Do you have piles of books to be read, and want to join a mutual challenge to actually read some of them in 2013? Join us here! Any kind of book, as long as it’s in your possession on January 1, 2013. Let’s get this party started!



Filed under Books, Building My Library, JK Rowling, Reading, Review, The Casual Vacancy

3 responses to “Blogging The Casual Vacancy, in conclusion

  1. Lauri

    I was wondering if you had finished it. I really appreciate your summation… certainly my thoughts about the book as a whole and the ending specifically were not so coherent as yours but I found myself thinking, “Yes, exactly!” about what you have written. It took me longer to appreciate Crystal than it did you during the book, but I came to like her very much and her actions in the last part of the book (see, no spoiler!) made me think even more of her personal character in a sense.

  2. denise

    thanks…I’ll crack it open eventually

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