The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling Where do I start with this review? I think it's important I point out that whilst, yes, I'm a huge Potter fan, I also read a lot of adult contemporary fiction. Whereas a lot of people have been crying out for more Potter, it's always been my wish that JKR write something completely different. When she announced The Casual Vacancy I was over the moon! And from the plot summary it sounded like exactly the kind of book I would enjoy.

The book starts out with the news of Barry Fairbrother's death spreading through the town of Pagford. We're introduced to a wide range of people who all have their place in their community, and see how the news affects them.

The first thing I should really state about the book is it's quite a dense read. Rowling uses very wordy language to describe and detail the people and town she has created. One of my pet peeves in novels is having to wade through unnecessary adjectives and this book was guilty that. If you want a light read then I wouldn't really recommend this book. Rowling also had this strange habit of putting large chunks of text in brackets - sometimes a whole page - which became a little annoying. I found myself tempted to skim a lot of these bits. It's a long book and could easily have been a couple of hundred pages shorter.

What made it even trickier to get into was the vast amount of characters. We're introduced to all sorts of people, and some of them seem to have very little relevance to the plot. A lot of them are just downright boring. The saving grace of the story is the Weedon family. Krystal Weedon is a teenager living in the "Fields" - Pagford's council estate - and whose mother is addicted to heroin. She's loud and gobby and a total victim of her circumstances. As soon as the book started to focus on the Weedon family I heaved a sigh of relief, because it was the first time I'd really felt engaged with the book. I kind of wish the story had just focussed on that family alone (although Sukhvinder's story - another teenager - was very interesting).

The book is undoubtedly very political, not that I expected anything less from Rowling. I thought the politics worked well when they were weaved into the plot, but at times you were taken totally out of the story as the narrative veered off into a political rant.

I didn't really have any problem with the swearing, but as it's something that has been brought up so often in reviews and the media, I might as well mention it. There is a lot. But it's mainly in spoken dialogue between the teenagers and I think in that sense, it's completely realistic. Rowling has got the teenager down to a tee. There's sex and drugs, too, so this truly is an adult read. I thought it was all dealt with pretty well for the most part, even if it was a bit cringeworthy in parts.

This is such an incredibly difficult book to rate. I can see the brilliance in some of the characters, and the last 50 or so pages had me gripped, but in a 500 page book it was far too late by then. The fact of the matter is, it just wasn't a very enjoyable read. I'd suggest reading the free sample of the book to get a feel for it. I would maybe have been slightly more hesitant to buy it had I had a chance to read part of it first. It's a very character driven story and relies on you being interested on the lives of the many characters. I was expecting Barry Fairbrother's death and the local council itself to take more promincence, but it's more a case of the ripple effect on the community rather than how they are going to solve the actual problem of a council member dying.

I really hope Rowling has another great novel in her, but for me, The Casual Vacancy isn't it.