Books / Contemporary Fiction

Thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy” from a Member of the Potter Generation

J.K. Rowling’s latest book The Casual Vacancy was released on Thursday. This work is a book for adults and doesn’t quite leave the reader with the same magical glow as her other novels. Although I don’t usually tend towards tragic comedies, I picked up a copy straightaway and started reading. Yes, it was because the book was written by J.K. Rowling. But is that a bad thing? If she had published it under another name, I, like many others, likely would have passed it over.

The Casual Vacancy has received mixed reviews.

New York Times critic said of the book, “Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is not only disappointing — it’s dull.”

Publisher’s Weekly also commented on The Casual Vacancy‘s “dullness” stating “while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren’t much fun.”

Comparisons to Harry Potter abound. The Associated Press claims that, “This isn’t a book that’s easy to fall in love with, the way Harry Potter was with its charming, winning hero and his plucky friends, saving the world from evil with the help of a powerful spell or two. Even with its moments of humor, it’s a hard story where some people just don’t get saved, because really, they never had a chance.”

There were a few positive comments in the mix. About the quality of the characters. The tragicomic humor.

Still, I read The Casual Vacancy all the way through. Why? I see it as Rowling’s challenge to people of my generation, the twenty-somethings.

I grew up with Harry Potter. I read the first books when I was in elementary school and the final book as I entered college. While I was already a big reader, the Harry Potter books nurtured and reinforced my love of reading as I grew. And, for many others, the Harry Potter books were the first books they had read in years. Or, the books that made them love to read for the first time.

J.K. Rowling has been challenging young people in particular to read and to expand what their literary appetites for years. Yet, people stuck with the Harry Potter books, even as they started to get darker, more adult, and confronted serious issues. The magical world of Harry Potter has been easing us into mature reading for years,  like bitter medicine in a cup of scrumptious hot chocolate.

The Casual Vacancy is simply Rowling’s challenge denuded of chocolate. Yes, it may not be the funnest book around. And yes, it’s not something you will fall in love with.

But that’s all the more reason why you should read it. Not all reading can be fun. The Casual Vacancy depicts the raw reality of life in an artful way while tackling big issues. It will make you think hard. And, as Rowling said in an interview, it had better make you cry. But you will get a lot out of it.

Are you ready for J.K. Rowling’s latest challenge? Take the leap with J.K. and me.


~ Michelle


For more reviews of The Casual Vacancy, see:


13 thoughts on “Thoughts on “The Casual Vacancy” from a Member of the Potter Generation

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    • Thank you very much! I’m sorry for the delay. I only just realized that wordpress has extremely aggressive spam filters and your comment accidentally got included in the pile. Best of luck with your blog! Perseverance is the key to success in most endeavors 🙂

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    • Hello Danuta. Thank you for your comment and your compliment. I might be interested in guest blogging; however, I am only writing on books and publishing at the moment. If you have a particular idea or theme in mind, feel free to approach me again. Once again, sorry for the delay. Aggressive spam filter strikes once more!

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    • Hmm, that’s a very good question, Josefina. I haven’t come across any other blogs on wordpress which have written about “The Casual Vacancy.” So, I’m afraid I can’t be of any help on that front. There are, however, a number of great blogs about books and publishing on wordpress. If you would like, I could point you to a few that I follow. Cheers to you as well! And, sorry for the delay. Malfunctioning spam filter.

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