Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Casual Vacancy

I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Casual Vacancy the moment it released, but being a poor student, I didn't want to spend a week's allowance to buy the book either. So after a week or two of waiting (I reserved it with the library), I finally got my hands on it.

In case you didn't know, I have loved J.K Rowling from the first time I read her book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) in primary 4. She has this amazing way with words that just absorbs you completely into the world she has created and you have no way of putting the book down until you've poured over every single page, every single sentence. And then afterwards, you spend your time relishing the memories of the book. She is just that good.

But honestly, when I first read the preview for The Casual Vacancy, I just felt, mehhh, the plot didn't sound too interesting. And in my mind I was like, oh no shit, I really want something that lives up to her name. Please, please please let it be good. But the cover design didn't give me much faith either. It's so...plain. Not even in a nice way. It feels as if the publisher can't be bothered, and he's just thinking like, no matter how shitty it looks, people will still buy it just because. true. But still, you know, even a photo of Rowling instead would have been much better I feel.

So either way, I picked up the book having a teeny weeny bit of high expectations, but consciously telling myself not to. But seriously, I was bored.

Because the centrality of The Casual Vacancy was kind of political, with people vying for the position and lots of other things, and politics is just not. my. thing. I wasn't very patient with it. Moreover, the pace of the story was so slow, and there were so many characters and I had such a hard time making them out, because you know, I just didn't feel that connection that I had with the Harry Potter characters. With Harry Potter, it was like I knew every single one of them, I knew how their characters are like, I know their flaws but I still loved them. I went through their ups and downs with them.

But in this book, it was so dark and crude and cynical most of the time. I couldn't empathize with the characters as much as I want to, maybe because I couldn't understand the situation that they are in no matter how hard I tried. And it feels like the story was just really slow, I mean, her words are still beautiful, but it just felt like nothing much was happening. And at the start, I had to stop every time she went between characters to recall who they were and what their background was supposed to be.

And then, you get all this scenes of rape, of constant vulgarities being hurled around between friends, between husband and wife, between children and parents, and there's drug abuse, child neglect, sex and erections, self mutilation, class issues, race issues, and on and on. And it just feel so wrong coming from Rowling. I mean, I kind of expected this already from the many reviews out there, but it just felt so wrong when I was doing the reading. I felt like I was intruding into something I didn't mean to.

And the whole tone of The Casual Vacancy is just so...bleak and dark, and hopeless. Everybody was harbouring secrets, everybody was unhappy in one way or another, everybody was being cynical and hypocritical and thinking really mean thoughts in their heads. I just...I just wanted something more magical you know. So there were many times I had to put down the book, or just make myself continue reading even though I wasn't very keen on it.

But things started really perking up towards the last 70 pages or so. That was when the story became really tight, and then you start to finally see some action, and everything just went quickly and developed from there. It started getting really intriguing and that was when you really start to feel for the characters.

But it should have been that way from the start. I saw a glimpse of the excitement I felt towards Harry Potter, towards the end of the book, but it was so short-lived it felt unreal.

I'm just saying, if it had not been written by Rowling, I would have given it a 4 out of 5. But coming from Rowling, I guess it's a mere 3 at most.

I'm just hoping her next book would be a more exciting one. Mystery maybe?

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