by Stephen Tall on January 4, 2013
The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
Well of course I only read it because I’m a Harry Potter fanboy. And no, if I hadn’t been I probably wouldn’t have stuck it beyond the first 150 pages, which are a bit Midsomer-Murders-does-gritty. And yes, if you’re looking for a pacy plot or a literary masterpiece you’re probably better off elsewhere.
But — and it’s a big but — by the end of the book I couldn’t stop reading. Because what J.K. Rowling is brilliant at constructing are characters you care about in situations you can identify with. And that’s a pretty fundamental part of writing a novel that’s enjoyable to read.
However, a bit more active editing of J.K.’s writing wouldn’t be a bad idea (it might’ve saved Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix from itself, but that’s another matter). At times there’s a sloppiness to the story-telling — for instance, long flashbacks dropped into the middle of chapters in parentheses — which few other writers would be allowed by their publishers to get away with.
But if you want to lose yourself in a sprawling, all-too-human saga, The Casual Vacancy is a Good Read.