But about three weeks ago I got a call that it was in. I was a little wary, because I could only have the book for two weeks, as others were waiting in line and I would be heading home for spring break before the two weeks were up. I was going to need to power read to make it through, or be OK with playing late fees. I did manage to finish the book in time and return it before I left :)
Beware that a few spoilers lie ahead: Also beware that I will make completely ridiculous and unfair comparisons between this book and the Harry Potter series. As I was reading and now, I realize that these are not fair, the Harry Potter series is a singular and amazing journey that could never be replicated. However, they are comparisons anyone who reads the book is destined to make.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I looooooooooooooove the Harry Potter books so much and I think that J.K. Rowling is a genius and an incredibly amazing writer.
I was majorly disappointed. I have incredibly neutral feelings about the book. It was fine, but it wasn't anything like her other writing. I went in knowing that it was an adult book with more adult themes and language. I'm fine with that. I read other "adult" books and thoroughly enjoy them, but it was if J.K. Rowling said, "I would like to write a book that is the complete opposite and as different as Harry Potter as I can." If that was her mission, than she succeeded, but I would argue not in a good way.
The story revolves around a small town in England and their relationships and politics. The characters' lives are intertwined and as the story unfolds you discover the various ways characters connect. Imagine, the movies Valentine's Day or He's Just Not that Into You in book form. Sounds great, right? Except, I found it very difficult to keep the characters and their relationships straight in my head. When you're seeing them on screen in those movies, it is easier to keep everyone straight, but there were so many intertwined characters, I was always having to ask myself, "Who is that? Is that so-and-so's wife, mistress, etc?" I had a hard time remembering who was on which side politically and frankly wasn't very inspired to remember these details. Perhaps if the characters had been more engaging, I would have found it easier to keep track of them all.
There was also the fact that I cared little about any of the characters. I was hard-pressed to find a single character that I wanted to root for or who was what I would consider an upright citizen or at all likable character, which made it very difficult for me to feel connected to the book. There were cheaters, liars, drug addicts, kids skipping school to smoke and have sex, nosy senior citizens, people way too wrapped up in boring politics and just all-around jerks. There is one point where a small child dies, usually a tear-jerking moment for Jillibean. While reading, I took a deep breath as if I was going to start crying and realized that I didn't really care and did not really need to cry. And it was a kid, dying. And I felt nothing.
I can't tell you how many times I cried reading the last several Harry Potter books. Mr. Weasley is attacked, sobbing. Sirius dies, many, many tears shed. Dumbledore dies, lots of crying. Fred, Tonks, Lupin die, waterworks. Harry walks to certain death, I am inconsolable. Little kid dies in The Casual Vacancy, I feel nothing.
Besides this, the writing was just not engaging. In Harry Potter, the writing and language are beautiful. "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them." That line is beautiful and just one of many examples of the lovely ways Rowling composes her writing. I love the way Rowling plays with language and uses such beautiful phrases and sentence construction in Harry Potter. In The Casual Vacancy, that sentence would probably be: "After knocking out a troll, they became friends." It is just such plain, boring language. Now I understand that the magical and whimsical and other-worldly nature of the Harry Potter books probably lends itself to this type of language more than a story about small-town politics. But I came in expecting a very different, more adult story, that I though would at least be recognizable as Rowling's writing style. If I hadn't seen her name on the cover, I would never have guessed she was the author.That was very disappointing. I know she wanted to write a different type of book, but it was a bummer that she couldn't keep the wonderful writing style employed in the Potter books.
Overall, it was a very disappointing read. I never felt compelled to continue reading one more chapter or much of any real emotion.