Customer Reviews


3,583 Reviews
5 star:
 (1,272)
4 star:
 (769)
3 star:
 (556)
2 star:
 (466)
1 star:
 (520)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


1,842 of 1,932 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Krystal's progress
Oh dear! There seems to so much negativity on this review board that it is difficult to start a positive review without dealing with some of it. I think I will therefore start with some advice as to who shouldn't buy this book, this might save some people some money and also stop this board from filling up with largely unhelpful 1 star reviews.
Don't buy it is you...
Published on 30 Sept. 2012 by Dave

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nasty, brutish and long ....but strangely compulsive
J K Rowling's first adult book has divided opinions. It centres around conflicts between the middle class residents of an almost idyllic country town and the neighbouring residents of a dilapidated housing estate. There is scarcely a likeable character in the book. We are used to dysfunctional families in modern novels but here every family is dysfunctional, with...
Published 1 month ago by PhilipT


‹ Previous | 1 2359 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

1,842 of 1,932 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Krystal's progress, 30 Sept. 2012
By 
Dave (Holmfirth, Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
Oh dear! There seems to so much negativity on this review board that it is difficult to start a positive review without dealing with some of it. I think I will therefore start with some advice as to who shouldn't buy this book, this might save some people some money and also stop this board from filling up with largely unhelpful 1 star reviews.
Don't buy it is you resent paying a tenner. That's how much it costs. It's a new book by a much loved best -selling author and you're reading it within a few days of publication. Get over it.
Don't buy it if you want a roller-coaster fast- moving plot. This is a quietly written character driven novel that requires a bit of patience and thought. It needs its length for the many characters to develop. You can't really comment on it until you've read it right to the end.
Don't expect any magic. This is a starkly realistic novel. I would view this as one of its strengths but if you can't take "warts and all" characterisations of ordinary people and some pretty unsavoury behaviour than stay away.
Don't buy it if you have knee jerk political opinions. Many people seem to see this book as a snobbish and judgemental duffing up of the poor old squeezed middles. This isn't in fact the case, everybody gets a pretty good duffing up but if you believe everything it says in The Daily Mail (or The Guardian for that matter) it might be an idea to stay away :-)
You need to have a bit of patience with the characters. They are not at first sight loveable (any of them) but if you've read the first few chapters and have decided (correctly) that Samantha is a first class bitch and Fats is an appalling little shit then please give them a little more time. Character development is a lot of the point of this book. You will know most of the major players a lot better by the end.
Who then should buy this book? I think basically if you enjoy literary fiction then you are in with a chance. Having said that I still think there will be plenty of "high brows" who will dislike it. It is very plainly written with a slow linear plot line. You will find no hint of Amis type literary smart-arsery so don't expect it. Secondly (shock horror) the book has moral content, in fact the last few chapters of part five are basically the parable of the good Samaritan and in part six some of the cast find a kind of "redemption". I'm surprised no-one else has pointed this out. If you are going to be dreadfully offended by this then again, stay away.
For myself I liked it a lot, I can't think of another modern novel to compare it to, with its slow pace, large cast of well-drawn characters and slight preachiness it is curiously old fashioned. If I have any criticism at all it is that one or two of the large cast do remain a little 2 dimensional but Fats, Andrew, Krystal and a few of the others will stay with me for a long time. To flesh everybody out in the same detail would have required an even longer book, as it is I read the whole 500 pages in two days, I wasn't a particular Harry Potter fan, If I hadn't been enjoying it I would have given up. Draw your own conclusions.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


192 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written and Undeniably Thought-Provoking, 3 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
My desire to read this book stemmed purely from a love of J.K. Rowling's previous work (You-Know-What, or They-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named). From the off, I knew to expect something different. I'd seen the poster at the books store. It stated categorically that her new book was for adults (funnily enough, this poster was in the children's section). Regardless, I knew that I was going to read whatever she brought out next, having already been impressed by her writing skill. Yes, before I'd even begun reading, I had "baggage"; expectations of a certain standard of story-telling. Once the book was out, I heard a number of bad reviews. I was not put off, and I was not disappointed.

Pagford is a picturesque, parochial town with cobbled streets and quaint little cottages. Just beyond is the council estate, The Fields; a crime-ridden, concrete-crumbling embarrassment to the Pagford old guard. When Councillor Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, leaving his seat in Pagford Parish Council open - a Casual Vacancy - old grudges break to new grievances. The council are divided by pro-Fielders and those who wish to see Pagford restored to its supposed former glory. It soon becomes clear, as the town's pretty façade begins to crack, that this division will inevitably lead to a disastrous conclusion.

This Dickensian approach, of telling the story of a town, rather than a character, is a marvellous example of just how good an author J.K. Rowling is. She weaves a rich tapestry of characters and situations together in a masterful and undeniably thought-provoking way. This story is told from the different perspectives of a number of complex personalities, young and old. For instance, you'll find yourself casting judgement on an individual; only to have your opinion receded by the next chapter. Gritty and controversial themes are explored throughout. It may not have the same "page-turner" appeal as her previous books, but it certainly leaves an imprint in the mind. I could go for days without picking this book up, but when I found time to read, I remembered exactly what had happened up to that point. This is great story-telling. I highly recommend this book, and eagerly await Rowling's next offering.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


345 of 385 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Did Harry Potter go to boarding school?, 9 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
The casual vacancy.
J.K.Rowling

I may be unusual amongst reviewers of J.K.Rowling's latest book in that I have never read a Harry Potter story, not being drawn to the celebration of public schools, nor to fantasy stories of wizards and dragons (nor to Tolkien, Wagner, or model railways, but that's another story).

Here we have a further iteration of the English village novel, but in this version not a celebration of the genre, nor of the people or their manners. It is more a full frontal assault on the complacency, hypocrisy , selfishness, narrow-mindedness and sheer unpleasantness of the great majority of the inhabitants of Pagford, somewhere not far from Bristol. I have to confess that for long parts of this book I asked myself the question 'why bother?' Why does the author bother to skewer these people so relentlessly, what animus drives her to spend so much time and effort revealing their nastiness as if we didn't recognise it already? Settling scores? And if so, do we need to be there?

But, and there is a but, JKR brings forward some characters who are rarely encountered, and insists we notice them. Most notable is Krystal, school age daughter of a drug addict, resident of a 'sink estate' as other people in the village would term it, foul mouthed, sexually promiscuous, and the carer of her 3 year old brother. She is both brave and desperately in need of affection. Krystal is one of a range of teenage characters who JKR is able to present persuasively, as if from the inside. Others include Sukhinder, a self-harming Sikh girl, from the only Asian family in the village; Andrew whose crush on Gaia is brought to life with complete conviction, and who brings back vivid memories for the non-teenage reader; Gaia herself, exiled from London by her single parent mother's move from Hackney, privileged by good looks but enraged by her mother's unpleasant boyfriend; and 'Fats', whose lacerating wit covers his unhappy home and hatred of his father. The families that these young people live in are mercilessly exposed by JKR as nests of mutual dislike, infidelity, backstabbing and cruelty. Did Harry Potter go to boarding school? No wonder.

And of the adults only Val the social worker, Parminder the doctor and just possibly Colin the teacher with OCD come out, despite severe personal challenges, as having any sympathetic treatment at all.

There is a problem with the sympathetic treatment, and of its more dominant opposite, contempt. Rowling's authorial presence dominates the narrative, imposing moral judgement, left and right. The narrative is manipulated like a children's story to deliver punishment to the wicked, and then to the innocent as well. Grimness is all. JKR is a moralist who has not yet wholly learned to reveal rather than instruct. At the same time, while most of us walk away from the pain of others- it challenges our own wellbeing and threatens to make demands - JKR walks towards it.

By the end of the book this reader did care, in particular about the children for whom JKR has a special insight, and for the poor, who are so completely p******d on by the comfortably off. There is a wellspring of compassion in this author that is welcome in the world of contemporary fiction. While JKR has joined the super-rich in terms of wealth, she has not joined them in terms of attitude. She does not have to write, unlike in her earlier days as a single parent living on benefits, and is brave to set out after Harry Potter to stake a new claim. I hope she does so again, as she has something to tell us.

Alan Tait
October 2012
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


115 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Casual Vacancy, 27 Mar. 2013
Must say I do not agree with the majority of professional book reviewers who have slated this. I found this book witty, gritty and an authentic insight into the day to day life of a middle England, wannabe posh rural community. Where the author has got it so right is how believable the characters are. From the bored middle aged housewife to the angst ridden spotty teenager and inbetween. All have their qualities and faults and all are authentic. Certainly not a feel good story but realistic and enjoyable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I watched the tv adaptation first and was left disappointed. There seemed no point to the story so ..., 21 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I watched the tv adaptation first and was left disappointed. There seemed no point to the story so decided to read the book. What a difference! The book is a study of current cultural problems set in the microcosm of a village.
Things that were not apparent on the tv are explained as why was Barry Fairbrother so interested In Krystal? Turns out he wanted to give back to society as a boy from a rough area made good not because he was Krystal or Robbies father which I could only assume from the tv.
Other pointless things are changed and I realise that things have to change to fit on tv as the ending was but why make Andrew's father Barry's brother? Why was not the Indian girls problems highlighted? That she was bullied and self-harmed?
It was a bad adaptation, the wrong things taken away and added.
So I thoroughly recommend the book but read it after watching the tv version.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


194 of 221 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hopeful message, 4 Oct. 2012
By 
Peter Mennie (St Albans, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
Many reviewers of this book who have been disappointed have primarily objected to the length, tone, or message of the story, or else complained about the dissimilarity to Harry Potter.

Actually, it is a very uplifting book. True, it depicts many of the problems in our society, very vividly and very well, which might be unsettling. But more importantly JK Rowling shows how a single person's contribution to other people's happiness can be so great: the death of Fairbrother demonstrates how many people he was helping in his local society and what a difference he was making. That seems to me more a message of hope than despair, that people can make a difference and it is very worthwhile trying to do so.

It is most impressive that JK Rowling, flush with success, did not decide to take the easy option and write another Harry Potter story with guaranteed sales and film rights. That would have been the easy option and guaranteed success whatever the reviewers might say. Instead she used her position to actually make a serious and powerful contribution by writing about the society we live in and how that can be improved. She's following in a great tradition of authors who have now been recognised for the value of their commentary: Dickens, Trollope etc.

It's a well written, powerful book. It isn't for those who would prefer to close their doors and imagine all is well with the world, but I would bet this book will be seen retrospectively as a turning point that compelled early 21st century society to confront itself and to achieve more.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nasty, brutish and long ....but strangely compulsive, 15 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Paperback)
J K Rowling's first adult book has divided opinions. It centres around conflicts between the middle class residents of an almost idyllic country town and the neighbouring residents of a dilapidated housing estate. There is scarcely a likeable character in the book. We are used to dysfunctional families in modern novels but here every family is dysfunctional, with seething hatreds and frustrations separating the generations and the husbands and wives. Just one example is a dumpy teenage Asian girl who suffers from her GP mother's disdain that she is not a high achiever like her surgeon father, the GP mother herself and her siblings. She is mercilessly bullied at school, by the most revolting character, a teenage boy with sociopathic tendencies. Only one character is admirable - a foul mouthed teenage girl who battles to keep together her family, consisting of a junkie mother and a toddler younger brother.
And the ending of the book is horrible. I believe the upcoming BBC TV adaptation is going to change the ending.
There is also a torrent of 4 letter words. If you don't like repeated use of the F word don't read this book.
And yet ...and yet the book sucks you into the world Rowling has created. In spite of the characters being so unlikeable you still want to know what happens to them. Rowling is a master storyteller. Each twist of the plot creates a new direction, a new trail which you want to explore.
This book has encouraged me to start up reading her two detective novels, written under her pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, which star the wonderfully named private detective, Cormoran Strike. The first one is really good. It will get more than 3 stars when I finish it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well, I couldn't put it down, 14 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Paperback)
I have scanned through some of the reviews on here and am astonished by the negativity.

Yes, this is a scathing indictment of society. Yes, the large cast of characters are - in the main - unpleasant with little or no redeeming features. This is not chick lit.

Many of the reviewers seem to have expected an adult Harry Potter-esque tale. To future readers, I would say "put your preconceptions to one side, forget that this is the author who had the brilliance to invent the world of Harry Potter, and approach this as if it is a book written by someone you have never heard of. Give it a chance, stick with it and you will be rewarded for your perseverance."

The book is expertly written and, as the reasons for the behaviour of the characters are slowly revealed, JKR gradually peels away layers, exposing their history and thought processes.

This is not a book I could describe as enjoyable, but I couldn't put it down. It has the same fascination as an accident, at which you cannot stop yourself from staring.

This is an immensely satisfying read and the denouement will stay with me for some time. I have been turning the final outcome - which is somehow both predictable, but a shock at the same time - over and over in my head, picking at it like a scab. Any book that can provoke me like this and drive me to write a review is definitely worth reading.

Incidentally, I read this on my Kindle and didn't notice the numerous editorial errors, which some reviewers have complained about. I have been known to put a book to one side, never to pick it up again, when irritated by sloppy editing - so future readers can be assured that any really bad errors have been corrected.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly wizard but a thought-provoking read, 5 April 2014
By 
R. Darlington "Roger Darlington" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Paperback)
I have not read a word of any of the seven mega-selling "Harry Potter" books written by Rowling, but I was intrigued to check out "The Casual Vacancy", her first novel for adults, and I was pleased that I did. It needs a while to read (it is 568 pages in paperback), takes a while to build, and offers characters that are sometimes veering on caricatures, but this is a novel with something to say that says it in an accessible, unfussy, way.

The title refers to the need for an election to the parish council of the well-heeled West Country town of Pagford where a a bitter dispute is taking place over proposals to reassign resposnibility for The Fields, a local estate, to the larger next door twon of Yarvil. In fact, the election - occasioned by the death of a popular councillor who wanted to keep responsibility for The Fields - is contested by three candidates and brings out prejudice and bitterness not just between the candidates but within their families so that, for Rowling, the contest is merely the catalyst for examining the dynamics between some 20 or so diverse characters.

The novel appears to start as something of a black comedy but then becomes more sharply satirical and finally transmutes into a tragedy. This is not a tale in which everyone lives happily ever after: not everyone lives and there is much unhappiness along the way. The language is certainly adult with plenty of aggressive and sexual tirades. The themes are certainly adult too: an exposition of class (and, to a lesser extent, racial) prejudice with references to poverty, prostitution, teenage sex, and drug-taking and instances of bullying, self-harm, child abuse, and rape.

Although Rowling has clearly moved away from children's fiction here, unusually in an adult novel there are as many children's characters and viewpoints as adult ones. Hardly any character though is blameless and the novel can be seen as an examination of different forms of responsibility. Rowling writes well and has a way of capturing some complex feelings such as: "How awful it was, thought Tessa, remembering Fats the toddler, the way tiny ghosts of your living children haunted your heart; they could never know, and would hate it if they did, how their growing was a constant bereavement".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to Pagford, 15 Oct. 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Hardcover)
I originally thought that I wouldn't read this book until it came out in paperback, but temptation got the better of me, and I must admit that it wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was inevitable that JK Rowling's first none Harry Potter book was going to come in for a bit of a bashing, especially when you read this book and see what happens to the characters, and the incidents and swearing that takes place (although the swearing as such is in context). There are many things wrong with this, as well as many right things, but to even start going in to all that would require pages of analysis. So, to start with, this book isn't a social novel detailing the wrongs of society, it isn't even a political novel (this only plays a small part) despite the title, and it definitely isn't Dickensian.

Pagford is a small rural town somewhere in the West Country and we are introduced to a host of characters living in the boundaries of the Parish Council. When Barry Fairbrother keels over and dies at the very beginning of the book there is a vacancy on the parish council. This is the catalyst of the story if you like, as it gives us an 'in' to the characters that we are introduced to. If you have read any of the Harry Potter books, or seen the films you will remember the Dursley family, and in many ways a lot of the characters here resemble them to a degree. The novel is full of darkly comic moments that will make you laugh, and as I was reading this I thought that it would make a good little TV series. The characters are nasty and are dysfunctional and you find that you don't like a lot of them that much, although in a way this draws you in as you want to know what happens to them. The story as a whole is condensed, so that you have loads of modern problems facing you that wouldn't really happen to such a small number of people; but in a way that is really what a soap opera is like.

The language used for the poorer people here is rather grating, I come from a poor working class background, I know what problems the unfortunates and dregs of society face, but I have never heard anyone speak quite like they do. For instance you have 'anythin' written here, whereas the usual is 'anythink'. The slurring of words together as well would only really happen with one character, due to her drug usage, not to others as well.

So many not nice people and lots of bad things happening really draw you in, and I found myself captivated to a large degree. I am not a fan of soap operas, but this book reads like one, or perhaps really this is more of a satire of the whole genre as such. I think that this would make a really good choice for book groups, as there is definitely a lot to discuss here. The ultimate question though that this book raises is, does JK Rowling actually like people?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2359 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (Hardcover - 27 Sept. 2012)
£16.00
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews