2 out of 5 stars
This book was disappointing. It was disappointing from a literature perspective, not because “it isn’t anything like Harry Potter,” which is a common complaint about this book.
It isn’t anything like Harry Potter; a lot of things aren’t like Harry Potter, but they still have substance and believable characters.
The Casual Vacancy had neither.
The characters in this book were abhorrent. Every single character was morally degenerate. As an author, it is taboo to make your characters perfect. Regular people have many flaws, and books are not believable if characters do not have weaknesses. There can be no plot when characters are perfect.
The Casual Vacancy has the opposite problem. All of Rowling’s characters fell into one of two categories. Either a character was overtly evil, or else they were evil passive aggressively. No one has any redeeming qualities. Because of this, there is an obscenely obvious lack of development for both the story and the characters.
It could be argued every single character digressed by the end of the story. The only likable character dies within the first couple of pages, and J.K. Rowling manages to run him over the coals before the story is finished. Again, leaving no believable or likable characters in her 500-page book.
This review would have been the same no matter who wrote it, but my irritation with this book is a little more acute because it was written by J.K. Rowling. She has previously shown her ability to create virtuous and detestable characters alike, whilst giving each character a healthy dose of strengths and weaknesses (also known as depth).