The Casual Vacancy

Overview

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first...

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The Casual Vacancy

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Overview

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the town's council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Harry Potter fans waited nearly six years for J.K. Rowling's next book and debates about its merits will probably persist for at least another decade. For those not disturbed by Rowling's first venture into adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy has earned praise as "a richly peopled, densely imagined world...intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny." Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly
On the face of it, Rowling’s first adult book is very different from the Harry Potter books that made her rich and famous. It’s resolutely unmagical: the closest thing to wizardry is the ability to hack into the amateurish Pagford Parish Council Web site. Instead of a battle for worldwide domination, there’s a fight over a suddenly empty seat on that Council, the vacancy of the title. Yet despite the lack of invisibility cloaks and pensieves, Pagford isn’t so different from Harry’s world. There’s a massive divide between the haves and the have-nots—the residents of the Fields, the council flats that some want to push off onto a neighboring county council. When Councilor Barry Fairbrother—born in Fields but now a middle-class Pagforder—dies suddenly, the fight gets uglier. In tiny Pagford, and at its school, which caters to rich and poor alike, everyone is connected: obstreperous teenager Krystal Weedon, the sole functioning member of her working-class family, hooks up with the middle-class son of her guidance counselor; the social worker watching over Krystal’s drug-addled mother dates the law partner of the son of the dead man’s fiercest Council rival; Krystal’s great-grandmother’s doctor was Fairbrother’s closest ally; the daughters of the doctor and the social worker work together, along with the best friend of Krystal’s hookup; and so on. Rowling is relentlessly competent: all these people and their hatreds and hopes are established and mixed together. Secrets are revealed, relationships twist and break, and the book rolls toward its awful, logical climax with aplomb. As in the Harry Potter books, children make mistakes and join together with a common cause, accompanied here by adults, some malicious, some trying yet failing. Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren’t much fun. Agent: The Blair Partnership. (Sept. 27)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Casual Vacancy:

"I had come under the spell of a great novel....A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence....This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply."—Lev Grossman, Time

"A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone."—People

"This book represents a truckload of shrewdness....There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully....genuinely moving."—Washington Post

"A positively propulsive read."—Wall Street Journal

"Often entertaining....Rowling does a nice job laying out her 20-plus characters' endless pretensions and weaknesses, which she punctures with gleeful flicks of a surprisingly sharp comic blade."—Entertainment Weekly

"The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read....a stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today."—The Mirror (UK)

"A study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot...The Casual Vacancy immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world...intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny."—The Guardian (UK)

Entertainment Weekly
"Often entertaining....Rowling does a nice job laying out her 20-plus characters' endless pretensions and weaknesses, which she punctures with gleeful flicks of a surprisingly sharp comic blade."
Lev Grossman - Time
"I had come under the spell of a great novel....A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence....This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply."
People
"A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone."
Washington Post
"This book represents a truckload of shrewdness....There were sentences I underlined for the sheer purpose of figuring out how English words could be combined so delightfully....genuinely moving."
Wall Street Journal
"A positively propulsive read."
The Daily Beast
"An insanely compelling page-turner....The Casual Vacancy is a comedy, but a comedy of the blackest sort, etched with acid and drawn with pitch....Rowling proves ever dexterous at launching multiple plot lines that roar along simultaneously, never entangling them except when she means to. She did not become the world's bestselling author by accident. She knows down in her bones how to make you keep turning the pages."
Parade
"There are plenty of pleasures to be had in The Casual Vacancy....Parts of the story would be tonally of a piece with any Richard Price or Dennis Lehane novel, or an episode of The Wire."
The Huffington Post
"Rowling knows how to write a twisty, involving plot....She is clearly a skilled writer."
The Mirror (UK)
"The Casual Vacancy is a complete joy to read....a stunning, brilliant, outrageously gripping and entertaining evocation of British society today."
The Bookseller (UK)
"Rowling has written a grand novel...a very brave book."
The Guardian (UK)
"A study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot...The Casual Vacancy immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world...intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny."
Telegraph (UK)
"The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling's first adult novel, is sometimes funny, often startlingly well observed....Jane Austen herself would admire the way [Rowling] shows the news of Barry's death spreading like a virus round Pagford."
Lev Grossman
I had come under the spell of a great novel....A big, ambitious, brilliant, profane, funny, deeply upsetting and magnificently eloquent novel of contemporary England, rich with literary intelligence....This is a deeply moving book by somebody who understands both human beings and novels very, very deeply.
Time
Kirkus Reviews
Harry Potter's mommy has a potty mouth. The wires have been abuzz for months with the news that Rowling was writing a new book--and this one a departure from her Potter franchise, a book for grown-ups. The wait was worth it, and if Rowling's focus remains on tortured adolescents (as if there were any other kind), they're teenagers trapped without any magic whatsoever in a world full of Muggles. There's some clef in this roman, magic or not: The setting is a northerly English town full of council estates and leafy garden suburbs inhabited by people who, almost without exception, are not very happy and really not very likable. While a special election is in the offing, they do the usual things: They smoke and drink and masturbate, and they say and think things along the lines of "Like fuck he does, the cunt," and when they're lucky, they have sex, or at least cop a feel, best when a young woman named Krystal is involved. Ah, Krystal, a piece of work both nasty and beguiling: "She knew no fear, like the boys who came to school with tattoos they had inked themselves, with split lips and cigarettes, and stories of clashes with the police, of taking drugs and easy sex." Sometimes, as with the figure who opens the piece, Rowling's characters die--and, as with the American Henry James' oh-so-English novel The Spoils of Poynton, when they do, they set things in motion. Other times, they close things up but never neatly. The reader will be surprised at some of Rowling's victims and the ways she chooses to dispose of them, but this is less a book about mayhem than about the grimness of most lives. It is skillfully, often even elegantly written, and though its cast of characters is large and its thrills and spills few, Rowling manages to keep the story tied together and moving along nicely. Even so, it's difficult to find much purchase among some of her characters, particularly the tough, poor ones who live on the edge of town, and it often seems that Rowling doesn't like them much either. In all, when they're not sneaking off to Yarvil for relief, the residents of Pagford are Hobbesian through and through: rich hate poor, and poor hate rich; Indians hate Anglos, and Anglos hate Indians; and everyone hates the meddlesome middle-class do-gooders with suggestive names like Fairbrother who try to make things better. A departure and a revelation, though the story is dark and doesn't offer much in the way of redemption (or, for that matter, much in the way of laughs). Still, this Rowling person may have a career as a writer before her.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316228596
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 9/30/2014
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 119,738

Meet the Author

J. K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, have been translated into 73 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films.

As well as an Order of the British Empire for services to children's literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's Légion d'honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a commencement speaker at Harvard University. She supports a wide range of causes and is the founder of Lumos, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.

Biography

As the often told story goes, J. K. Rowling was on the brink of poverty, receiving welfare when her first Harry Potter book catapulted her into a stratosphere of stardom rarely enjoyed by any writer. While accounts of Rowling's destitution have been greatly exaggerated, her story is still something of a rags-to-riches tale not unlike that of her most famous creation.

Yes, Rowling did briefly receive government assistance after returning to her home country of England following a stint in Portugal, but that ended when she took a fairly well-paying teaching job. Rather than financial hardships, the period between a 1990 train ride from Manchester to London -- during which Rowling first conceived of a "scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard" -- and the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was marked by setbacks of a more personal nature. Her mother passed away. She divorced her first husband, leaving her to raise her daughter alone. The writing career she'd always desired was becoming less and less viable as her personal responsibilities mounted.

Then came Harry, the bespectacled boy wizard she'd first dreamed on that fateful train ride.

The success of the first Harry Potter novel (given the slightly less lofty title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.), in which the orphaned, seemingly ordinary boy discovers that he is not only a possessor of incredible powers but already a celebrity among fellow wizards, was far beyond anything Joanne Kathleen Rowling ever dared imagine. International praise poured in. So did the awards. Rowling won England's National Book Award and the Smarties Prize for children's literature. The series spawned an equally successful and hotly anticipated series of films starring the young megastars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson and featuring such venerable British actors as Maggie Smith, John Hurt, John Cleese, and Alan Rickman.

Rowling is responsible for introducing several new words and terms into the English lexicon, such as "muggle" (a civilian lacking in wizardly powers) and "Quidditch" (a fast-paced sport played while riding broomsticks). Perhaps most satisfying of all for the mother and teacher was the way she single-handedly ignited the literary pursuits of children all over the globe. Kids everywhere couldn't wait to get their hands on Harry's latest adventure at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is no small feat, considering that the novels tend to be exceptionally lengthy for books aimed at such a young audience (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is just a few pages shy of a whopping 900 pages!). Rowling has said that she conceives of her novels as "real literature," despite the fact that they are written for young people. Perhaps a testament to the literary merit of her books is the fact that they are nearly as popular with teenagers, college kids, and adults as they are with the grammar-school set.

With the massive popularity of her Harry Potter novels, Rowling has achieved similar fame and fortune -- for better and for worse. According to an article in a 2004 edition of Forbes magazine, Rowling's wealth was estimated at 576 million English pounds. In U.S. currency, that made her the very first billionaire author. The downside of that success is the unwanted attention she receives from Britain's notoriously relentless paparazzi. As Rowling lamented to Jeremy Paxton of the BBC, "You know, I didn't think they'd rake through my bins, I didn't expect to be photographed on the beach through long lenses." Rowling has also come under fire from Christian groups who object to her depiction of wizardry and witchcraft and certain critics who contest the "literary merit" of her work. Of course, one must always keep in mind that no one ever achieves Rowling's level of celebrity without having to listen to the griping of naysayers, none of which has impeded her continued success seriously.

Although Rowling could surely sell countless copies of Harry Potter books for as long as she is able to put pen to paper (and she does write much of her work in longhand), she initially conceived of the series in seven installments and has, of course, realized that plan with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. "There will be no Harry Potter's midlife crisis or Harry Potter as an old wizard," she once told the Sunday Telegraph. As for what life after Harry Potter might entail for Rowling, she has suggested quite a number of possibilities, including ideas for adult novels and possible tie-ins to the Hogwarts universe involving periphery characters. Whatever Rowling chooses to do, she has forever guaranteed herself a place alongside Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, and L. Frank Baum as one of the most beloved children's authors of all time.

Good To Know

Rowling's parents met on a train, coincidentally from King's Cross station to Scotland. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Rowling was 15, her mother died in the early 1990s. Rowling has a sister, Di, two years younger than she, who is an attorney.

Rowling's publisher requested that she use initials on Harry Potter covers, concerned that if they used an obviously female name, the target audience of young boys might be hesitant to buy them. Rowling adopted her grandmother's middle name, Kathleen, for the "K".

Rowling made a special guest appearance as herself on the hit cartoon show, The Simpsons.

With great success often comes great controversy. Rowling's Harry Potter books landed on a list of banned books because of their depiction of wizardry and witchcraft. However, Rowling regards her place on the list as a feather in her cap, as past lists have included works by such literary giants as Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, J. D. Salinger, and Harper Lee.

Rowling ran into a bit of potential trouble in the wake of stepped-up airline restrictions. While traveling home from New York, she refused to part ways with the manuscript of her still in-the-works final installment of the Harry Potter series during bag inspections. Fortunately, she was allowed onboard without further incident.

In 2001, two Harry Potter tie-in books were published: Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander. For those wondering who the mysterious Misters Whisp and Scamander are, well, they are actually both J. K. Rowling. The author donated all proceeds of her pseudonymous books to the charity Comic Relief.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Joanne Kathleen Rowling (full name), "Jo"
    2. Hometown:
      Perthshire, Scotland
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 31, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chipping Sodbury near Bristol, England
    1. Education:
      Exeter University
    2. Website:

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