Vacancy not filled

There seems something rather obtuse in reviewing a book that you have not even finished. On the other hand there is something so refreshing, so liberating about putting a book down that is just not working for you.

The book in question

I bought the book when it was first published – I fell for the hype. It was back in 2012. It sat on my shelf for 2013 and all of 2014. I moved it and dusted it. But as I do when I buy the ‘hype’ book of the moment I did not read it.

So why now in 2015? Easy – it has been made into a television programme. Perhaps I should see what the fuss was about and whether actually I was going to be watching the programme.

They say the book is always better. And as I have yet to watch the programme I can’t compare.

The book though will remain unfinished.

I got past my 50 page rule. I kept going. I had to write a list of who all the characters were and how they were related to see if it helped me.


I got past the 100 page rule and still something was not right with this book.

I felt I was missing the point of it. A man had died. Clearly liked by some in the community clearly disliked by many others. That was it. Nothing interesting was happening, it was about the bitchiness, the petty mindless disputes of local families, businessmen and women, councils and all the warring that goes between areas. The rough and the not rough. Them and us.

I understand that this is what the book is meant to be about. I get that. But frankly I was bored with it.

I got to about 150 pages and still kept going. Why?

I think I was still missing that ‘thing’ that the book seemed to lack. I flicked from characters to characters, still rather lost about the way they related to each other and had to reread passages and some pages to just refresh my memory.

It was not good, I had to put it down. But this is a piece of work, the first since Rowling had ended the Harry Potter series, surely I could keep reading to the end.

No – I got to around page 228, just under halfway. And I closed the book. I picked it up the next day, I flicked through to the last chapter or so and skim read. I got the gist of what happened. Actually the story of Krystal Weedon and her family was about the only thing that stood out in the book – rightly so it made the middle class snobbery pale into insignificance. This was real, gritty and grotty life – that is what the people of Pagford seem to be ignoring and sadly is an indication of probably what is going on in every city, town and village today.

The other thing that stood out for me was the language – the bad language. Oddly enough it does not bother me, I am not a great blasphemer but I think it has a time and a place. The constant swearing seemed to have been thrown in at random will as if having been constrained by writing for children, the chance to let rip was too good an opportunity to miss.

I think this book is J.K.Rowling’s book, it is not a book for me. For me The Cuckoo’s Calling is a much better read and Rowling I think is an author that has to write series of books, not one offs.

Therefore this book is the first in a long time that I have put down and moved onto something new. I can see me doing this again if a book is just not working for me.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What are your thoughts? How far do you go before giving up on a book?


7 thoughts on “Vacancy not filled

  1. Well done on explaining why this book did not work for you, particularly since it took time for you to figure out why it was not working. Useful reviews, positive or negative, are those that explain the reason behind the reviewer’s verdict. Your review reminds me of some of the reviews of this book that I saw when it came out. On the basis of those reviews, and not withstanding my interest in political intrigue and power struggles, I decided it was not for me. I was put off by the apparent lack of purpose, too many characters and, no doubt, the bad language. Swearing is a bug bear of mine, though I accept its necessary presence in direct speech in order for it to be realistic. I do intend to give the TV version a try, not least since that will waste less time; if that is what it turns out to be.

    I never had you down as a “great blasphemer”. I’m pleased to hear I was right about that.

  2. I watched the first episode last night and I have had the book downloaded on my kindle for ages, I think I shall probably be deleting it to make room for something else!

  3. I love the Harry Potter books, plan to pick up the Robert Galbraith ones at some point, and had no desire to read this at all. I’m currently reading a book that doesn’t pull me in either, not because of any great fault with it, but rather a trial lack of sympathy for the characters and from there a lack of interest in what’s happening to them. Good for you. Asking the decision to stop.

  4. So far we all seem to be in agreement. At least I only wasted an hour on a TV show. I doubt I’ll be tuning in for part two. The only character I liked was the one who died to create the vacancy. There must be some people who like this book and/ or the adaptation, but not me. For me it tried to be both a cosy village comedy and a satire on the enduring power of class in England, and ended up failing as either of the two.

  5. I rarely give up on books but that’s probably because I’m quite fussy about what I pick up to read in the first place. I haven’t read anything by Rowling but I did watch the first episode of this on TV last night, and like David Nolan above I didn’t like any of the characters, apart from the character who died. I’d rather avoid spending time with ghastly people, in books, on screen or anywhere else.

  6. “I’d rather avoid spending time with ghastly people, in books, on screen or anywhere else.” Hear, hear. Although literature probably does need to probe both good and bad, that’s no reason for subjecting ourselves to too much agony, particularly via books like this one that are primarily intended to entertain.

    Hope you don’t mind my repeated interventions, Joanne?

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