The Casual Vacancy: A Look into the Lives of Dull Muggles

I am a Harry Potter nerd big time and I love J.K. Rowling, but she is not Midas. Not everything she writes is gold and The Casual Vacancy is example No. 1 in my book.

I bought the book the same day it was released. I remember being super excited about the new book and I avoided all the promotions and hype. I stopped listening to Mugglecast and refused to look at MuggleNet because I did not want anything to ruin my reading experience. I played Wizard Wrock all day and when I saw those red and yellow covers stacked in the center display at the bookstore, my breath stilled for just a moment. I practically skipped to the register and cradled the book in my arms to keep it safe until I could get it home.

I did every incredibly anal thing I did while reading the Harry Potter series: I removed the dust jacket to keep it clean and new, I washed my hands before touching the pages, I made sure to store it safely in my bag so no pages would get bent and the binding would stay intact. I was ready to devour this new book in one weekend, but that didn’t happen. I was prepared for the first chapter to be boring because it was the same in all the Harry Potter books. You have to force your way through that first chapter, sometimes the first two chapters. I was not prepared for the book to be dull throughout the the whole of Part One. With seven parts in the story I couldn’t even get through the first one before sitting the book down.

I was eleven years old when my mom gave me the Sorcerer’s Stone. I had a hard time reading that book and in the end I put it on my bookshelf and let it sit there for one year. I picked it up again at the start of 7th grade, made myself get through the first chapter and my love of Harry Potter was born. I was twenty-four when I put down Casual Vacancy and I let the book float around my room, always intending to read it, pick it up again, and finish this book I was so excited about.

September 2013, I was facing the one year mark since I had purchased the book. I felt guilty like I had let Jo down or something. Here I was, reading all the buzz about Rowling’s new book series and I hadn’t finished the book from last year. I couldn’t let a whole year pass without finishing that book. So I finished it … and it was hard.

The selfishness of the characters, everyone out to get what they need without thinking about other people or believing they had done enough in regards to considering family, friends, children, or siblings was a little too real for me in a depressing kind of way. At the end of the book I only felt sympathy for one person, Robbie. Everyone else were too absorbed in their own little worlds to see the bigger picture or feel anything for another person. The story didn’t get interesting until near the end when the pacing quickened and the sections became shorter and all those details that were ignored earlier in the story became relevant.

SPOILER ALERT

After reading this book, I felt empty. There was nothing final about the ending, nothing that made me feel like the characters would be okay after this, no new hope for the betterment of Pagford or The Fields. I was relieved I had finally finished it, and I was free to look at all the interviews and listen to the Mugglecast review.

I was not surprised that no one on Mugglecast had finished the book. I was not surprised by their reactions, or the reactions of readers on Goodreads. This is not the book for Harry Potter fans. None of the qualities I love about the series were present in this book. Although, JKR did keep to the same type of characters.

This book gives some sort of victory to red heads (Weasleys). Barry is described to be a lot like Charlie Weasley in build and Bill in personality. He is a good man, as would be expected of any Weasley, and has raised his family out of poverty (something Ron was embarrassed about).

Krystal is a girl who takes care of everything in the house. She has a harsher life than Harry had at the Dursley’s and I do feel sympathetic towards her throughout the book just because her life is so hard and she has no one there to tell her the right path to go down, no one like her beloved mentor, Barry.

Shirley was a much older Aunt Petunia. She pretends to love her life and tries to make everyone believe it is perfect. She casts away anything that tarnishes the shine of her fairy tale (i.e. her daughter, Pat). There is no point in the story where I like her character. She has no redeeming moments like Petunia. I was hoping she would ruin her own life by the end of the book, but no such satisfaction there.

Andrew is the most likable character in the whole book. His bad behavior seemed almost justified albeit a little cowardly. I felt sorry for his being afflicted by serious acne and his relationship with his best friend is not always supportive. He has terrible luck with girls, but by being himself, he managed to worm his way into the start of a promising relationship.

My Recommendation:
I would recommend this book to school teachers looking for character study type books. I would not recommend this for anyone who likes happy endings, needs likable characters, or wants to be entertained. I think this would make a decent Lifetime movie though. It would certainly take up less of your time.

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