Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review (kind of): J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy

I’ve been working on a review of The Casual Vacancy on and off for the past six weeks, and each time I open this draft post, I edit the first sentence.

So I finished J.K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy about two three five six weeks ago with every intention of writing a timely review. But here I sit in front of the computer (once again), mostly blank page still mostly blank, unable to come up with an angle or a coherent train of thought. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book - I did, actually, quite a bit - or that I don’t have an opinion. I’m just struggling to corral my thoughts into a witty or even semi-witty post.

(I start way too many sentences with the word “so,” feel free to mock me.)

I’ll start by telling you that I’ve never read any of Rowling’s other books. (Collective gasp from Harry Potter fans everywhere.) I saw a couple of the movies - the first one, I think, with the owls, and the one where the kids could stop time. And I read the first couple of pages of the first book when my son received it as a gift. But that’s about it.

I’ve deliberately avoided reading other reviews of The Casual Vacancy because I like to form my own opinions. The problem is, though, I’m stuck. It’s a good read, I told you that. And brilliantly written, with clear, crisp text, the perfect word always at the perfect moment. And once I got all the characters more or less straight in my head (there’re bunches of them), I was captivated by their individual stories and the linkages between them. And it made me think, too, about stuff like small town politics and misguided priorities and parent-child relationships.

But that’s all I’ve got. I even tried interviewing myself to see where it would lead, but didn’t get very far. It went something like this:

Interviewer: Hey, looks like you finished The Casual Vacancy! How’d you like it?

Me: It took me a few chapters to engage, and it was hard to keep all the characters straight at first but after the story started to move along, I was hooked.

Interviewer: So what’s it about?

Me: Umm, well, this spot on the local city council opens up when someone dies, and most of the town’s so busy worrying about their silly little politics that they miss what’s happening with the local children. 

Interviewer: Oooh, sounds creepy! Are the kids secretly all evil and shit, like Children of the Corn or that Damien kid from The Omen?

Me: No, no, not like that. At first it’s just fairly normal teenage stuff, smoking and sex and acne and trying to fit in, only it gets out of control quickly, and turns to depression and other, ummm, darker paths. 

Interviewer: So like Satan-worshipping or muggle-mugging? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Me: No, darker as in seriously depressing teenage shit, the stuff you hope like hell to never go through with your own children. Nothing paranormal, no talking animals or people with funny names (except for the Welsh). 

Interviewer: You know, I notice that you keep doing other things while I’m trying to ask you questions. Since we started this interview, you’ve made a smoothie, checked your email a zillion times, fixed another coffee, and decided on a whim to restyle your hair. (Looks fab, by the way.) Are you avoiding this post?

See what I mean? It’s a good read and it made me think. That’s all I got.

1 comment:

  1. oh gosh...i was hoping for a good review....guess i won't be reading that book anytime soon sad...