1,574 of 1,647 people found the following review helpful
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.
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Initial post: 11 Oct 2012 16:33:33 BDT
great review, thank you.
Posted on 12 Oct 2012 22:11:54 BDT
I second that - very good review indeed.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Oct 2012 20:40:20 BDT
A great review - you said everything I wanted to say about the book.
Posted on 14 Oct 2012 13:26:41 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Oct 2012 13:29:58 BDT
Yes, I agree. An excellent review. I am at about 65% complete and I am really enjoying it! So different and a real eye opener. Not once have I felt bored by the scenarios and characters. And you are right about Samantha Mollison. At first I thought 'what an awful, horrible woman' but now that her character has developed more I actually started to feel a bit sorry for her! Yes, she is still a bitch, but why is she a bitch? Finally her reasons are starting to emerge. I think mostly her actions and thought patterns are borne out of sheer frustration with her life and Miles is a pathetic, dull, simpering, brown nosing mummy's boy and I can't blame Samantha for fantasizing about Jake lol. I did find the whole boy band DVD thing funny, and her utter boredom during dinner with Miles' parents sent her reeling off into fantasy land because she was bored out of her mind and to be fair, most women would be if local politics dominated almost every topic during every drawn out, dull dinner party.
Reading this book felt a bit like being a spy inside the minds of the characters - what really goes on inside the minds of human beings? Mostly, people act nice on the outside (or put on some kind of fake mask) and inside are bitchy and bitter like Samantha Mollison and actually hate or resent those who are meant to be their friends and family. The character I have the most sympathy for at the moment is Sukhvider. I was bullied like that when I was at school and I experienced an almost exact scenario of being bullied by a gobby, popular boy during a lesson when the teacher was elsewhere. I too sat there snivelling into my sleeve while insults were rained upon me and the whole class laughed. I don't think these bullies realise that this kind of thing is carried with their victims all their life. I bet the little bleeper who bullied me has forgotten all about that incident in R.E. (probably wouldn't even remember who I was) whereas I can remember it like it happened yesterday. I can see his jeering, arrogant face mocking me over and over again. I have not forgotten any of the bullying I suffered at school and unless I get dementia, I will never forget it.
I think this book will be a classic someday and possibly even studied in schools (perhaps for those pupils over 15, although most 15 year old kids have got up to a lot worse than likes of Krystal Weedon and Fats Wall have). I think people just don't like being reminded of the fact that the human race is mostly made up of (I can't type the phrase in this comment), however there will always be the Barry Fairbrothers of the world to to set an example and give us hope that humanity is not a lost cause. Barry was a bit like a shining diamond in a big, steaming pile of horse manure. I like JK Rowling a lot more now. I also don't understand why people have a problem with the brackets. It's just a way of offering further explanation pertaining to a situation and it's not a problem!
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Oct 2012 15:58:39 BDT
Thanks everybody! I'm rising up the ranks though I'm still a few thousand behind anybody who has written a comment on me :-)
Posted on 14 Oct 2012 18:53:23 BDT
Mrs. S. E. Cooper says:
Brilliant review. What a thoroughly nice, sensible person this is! Love it.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Oct 2012 10:44:04 BDT
Well Dave, if you keep writing great reviews, you will soon be in the top 1,000, then 500 and so on. You will always get some negative votes even if the review is faultless, but when over 50 people think your review is helpful, well the votes speak for themselves. The more reviews you write, the higher your ranking, and it seems regardless of how many votes you get initially. A lot of people like to click the unhelpful button out of sheer spite, and many don't bother voting at all so getting one positive vote is good. I often wonder why I bother writing reviews sometimes - especially as Amazon get all this work done for free! However it's boredom that usually drives me to write reviews. One day, I was so bored at work I reviewed my bottle of pop lol.
This book has caused a lot of controversy and the initial problem was that people were reading the free sample and reviewing it! I always discount reviews on a product that has only been on sale for about six hours! I won't review it until the last page has been read and digested. I know this book might not be everybody's cup of tea, but to me it's been a 4.5 star read so far and I hope potential readers are not put off by some of the silly one star reviews by people who haven't even read the book.
Keep up the good work!
Posted on 15 Oct 2012 16:25:38 BDT
M. W. Pieta says:
I haven't actually read the book yet (nor have I bought it) and up till now I've been on the fence whether to read it or not. Must admit this review has definitely helped with making my mind up; now it's just going to be a case of whether I get it on Amazon or from a bookshop...
Posted on 16 Oct 2012 09:06:48 BDT
Mrs. S. F. Fitzsimmons says:
Intelligent and helpful!
Posted on 16 Oct 2012 23:33:25 BDT
Mr. Richard C. Mullins says:
Couldn't have put it better myself!