What defines a good book? Is it the writing? Putting sentences together in the standard pattern but with words different enough to be interesting? Or is it the sheer enjoyment that the reader finds between the pages?
For me, it has to be a bit of both.
The Casual Vacancy is a story about a small town and what happens when a member of the town council dies unexpectedly and has to be replaced. It isn’t action packed, sexy or funny. It is simply about people. Really annoying, not so nice people.
JK Rowling is an exceptional writer. No doubt about it. And, while I understand why some readers didn’t like this because it was such a departure from Harry Potter, I think that is unfair. It was clear when the blurb came out for TCV that is was going to be a departure and readers should go in expecting something different.
And, listen, it’s good book. Great writing, character development, etc. But I just didn’t enjoy it very much. I grew up in a small town so I know that people play dirty when it comes to local politics. Most towns have a divide between rich and poor, teens and parents, etc. So from that perspective it is well done. Boy did she show that divide. For me, though, it was hard to pick it up each night when there was no one to pull for.
At about the 90% mark, I realized that I was being tough on the characters. While some were bad people and deserved my disgust, others were just being human. A teenage boy who rebels. A promiscuous teenage girl with a druggie mother. A wife who is bored with her life. Are they horrible? Probably not. Just making horrible decisions and that’s the real world.
4/5 stars. I saw recently that this will be a BBC series. It will work. There is so much juiciness here and television viewers will eat it up.