Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

What makes a book review? Is it any more of a review if you have finished the book or if you've given up on it? Does it matter less if the review is based on only the first 100 pages or so? Well, the mixture of feelings I myself have over this vary but let me say this - if someone attempts to read a book and puts it down in favor of another book or just simply to put it down I want to know why. The reasons for that decision, I feel, can speak volumes about how the book is. With that I have opted to write a review about a book I have yet to finish and likely never will.

Upon hearing that J.K. Rowling was going to be publishing a new book I was ecstatic. I, like many, have been a long time lover of Harry Potter. I grew up with the books, they followed me through my preteen and teen years into my 20's and I was one of the many who sat at the midnight premiere of the final movie in tears. Rowling created a magical world that felt very much real, she opened the door to reading for many children, and she managed to do all of this whilst creating characters who readers were sympathetic to and found they could identify with. I had big hopes for her next book, no matter what it was about, because if there is one thing I know it is that J.K. Rowling can write.

With different things going on in my life I completely missed the books release date until I saw a flurry of activity on facebook and twitter of people freaking out that The Book Was Finally Here. Despite that I have all but banned myself from buying books I felt that this was worth breaking my ban. First I tried to hold the book on reserve at a Barnes and Noble in DC but then upon realizing I wouldn't have the time to get to the store on my lunch break I opted to just download the book on my Kindle. By that evening I had the book cracked open and was reading.

And I read and read and read and then gave up. My job has been notoriously boring. I currently scan documents while temping at an office and it leaves me with a lot of brainless activity time so I get the opportunity to read. This typically leaves me desperate enough to enjoy just about anything so long as it is better than mindlessly scanning documents but this book... I just could not get into this book. 

The cast list is huge and hard to follow which isn't something unusual for Rowling as Harry Potter had a huge cast as well. Yet the key difference between Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy was that each character in HP was unique enough that you could easily tell one character from another. With The Casual Vacancy I saw a lot of catty and somewhat cruel housewives, grumpy men, and a scattering of teenagers. The teens I was able to keep a better eye on and I feel that their story-lines were the most interesting which was interesting in itself - maybe that's where Rowling's strength is. She writes fantastic teen and children characters but not so much when it comes to adults. 

But the storyline was boring. I can't say that enough. It felt like it took me a century to inch along from page to page and I didn't even make it to the halfway point. I'm used to making progress with books and from what I could tell, a whole lot of nothing had happened and there were so many pages left for something to happen and... I felt like nothing would. I honestly didn't care. So this guy dies within the first few pages of the books and everyone, like vultures, are descending on the news in the town. Nice, real nice. But what's the point? Oh, a casual vacancy, okay, well why not introduce that exciting news earlier on? I was so bored by the time I gave up on the book that honestly if something exciting did happen it happened far too late. You need to grip a reader a lot sooner than this book seemed willing to. 

I found reading this book to be a job and not something of enjoyment. I found myself reading it for the sheer fact that I felt I owed it to Rowling. Rowling, you made my childhood and teen years better by your wonderful series filled with magic, tears, hope and joy. What kind of fan would I be if I didn't like your newest book? But then I realized that it wouldn't be fair of me to lie and say I was enjoying it when I very much was not. Rowling is allowed to give a go at other genres. She shouldn't be held back from writing anything she feels needs to be written but I feel that had it not been for her fan base of Harry Potter and how big she became due to that series this book would have been tossed in the scrap pile if it was written by anyone with a lesser known name. 

Rowling can still write; her attention to detail is still there but this story was a flop. I know I should have read the entire book before judging it but I am honest in saying it felt like pulling teeth. I kept gazing at my bookshelf and yearning for something else to read. I felt like this book was homework and that's not the point, for me, of reading. I read for enjoyment. I read for an escape. But this was making me feel rather caged and very much unhappy. So, with that, I write a review of a book I have not finished but I feel it can serve as a bit of warning for those considering to dive into the book. I didn't enjoy it and I put it down. It takes a lot for me to shelve a book and I sort of wish I could get a refund on what I spent when purchasing it. I'm sorry if I've let you down, Rowling, but I am sure there are many other fans out there who liked this book much more than me.
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