First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday: The Casual Vacancy

How surprised I was when this showed up in my mailbox at work today. I’d totally forgotten I’d added it to my cart this summer, only half intending to buy it, and now here it is: J. K. Rowling’s latest, The Casual Vacancy.
Here is a taste of the first page, as the first paragraph will not give enough indication of the first chapter:
“Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.
However, his wife had been a little stiff and uncommunicative over lunch, and Barry deduced that his anniversary card had not mitigated the crime of shutting himself away in the study all morning. It did not help that he had been writing about Krystal, whom Mary disliked, although she pretended otherwise.
“Mary, I want to take you out to dinner,” he had lied, to break the frost. “Nineteen years, kids! Nineteen years, and your mother’s never looked lovelier.”
Mary had softened and smiled, so Barry had telephoned the golf club, because it was nearby and they were sure of getting a table. He tried to give his wife pleasure in little ways, because he had come to realize, after nearly two decades together, how often he disappointed her in the big things. It was never intentional. They simply had very different notions of what ought to take up most space in life.”
Are you sufficiently intrigued to read the book? How do you feel about J. K. Rowling’s latest if you’ve already read past this point? (I’ll tell you that just because I received it today doesn’t mean it’s moved up to the top of the stack I have planned to read in October. I’m not saying I don’t respect what J. K. Rowling’s done, but I will say that the children I’ve taught have appreciated her writing far more than I have. So far.)
First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile of The Sea.
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22 comments

  1. I'm not a big Harry Potter fan, although I enjoyed the three or four I read (and then stopped and have not yet been tempted to read on). The storyline actually sounds like my thing, but so far I've read a lot of complaints about unnecessary swearing, drug use and sex. Blah. I prefer the innocent type of “English village tale” so . . . maybe someday, but I don't know.

    File under: Wishy-Washy Replies

  2. Here's an admission that's rare: I haven't read any J. K. Rowling, not a single book. Don't think I'll start now. But, it's so interesting to note the two very different 'camps' in evaluating her first book for adults, simply put, the good and the bad. Real curious to know what you think of it.

  3. My best friend is called Barry. So he's not amused. Me neither – I looked for a bit of magic and alas there was none for me. Bring back Harry Potter, or son of Harry Potter, or Harry Potter Returns, or the Potter Identity, or Harry Potter III. Please!

  4. I think I read them all, those Potter books, because they were the impetus for my son wanting to read when he was in elementary school. We'd read a chapter before bed, then soon enough I was going too slowly for him. The children in my classes have all been similarly entranced so I had to know what was going on. But I was never convinced of their great was, personally. So, I'm anxious to see how I feel about this book, too.

    Starting off with a couple's names which rhyme doesn't bode well, however…

  5. The writing style is HP enough but more so there's an old-fashioned atmosphere to it, lovely. Not so sure about the content, but then I'm too concious of spoilers to read anything beyond media summaries of the general concept.

  6. As a definite fan of Harry Potter, it's funny how even though it's a completely different subject matter, it still feels like J. K. Rowling's writing style. I was originally planning on waiting a while to read The Casual Vacancy (to let the hype and hype-backlash fade a bit), but now I'm a little more inclined to getting my hands on this sooner rather than later… Not entirely, but still – a shift in a positive direction.

  7. Yes, that paragraph intrigued me! I haven't ordered it yet and am trying to circumvent all the hyped-up reviews before reading it myself.

    I do think that people should read this without comparing it to her Harry Potter books.

    Hope you enjoy The Casual Vacancy!

  8. It's very interesting to read that first passage. I read all the Harry Potter books out loud to my son (yes, it took some time!) so feel I have given quite a chunk of my life to JK's prose. Like you I respect her achievement with the series enormously. But there are so many adult novelists I prefer and others I have been longing to get to for some time… so this is not yet a book that tempts me. But I do wish her well with it. She comes across as a very nice woman.

  9. Reading all the Harry Potter books to your son is quite the task! I read the first to my boy, and I think the second, but by then he was in third grade and he took off on his own. I'll never forget walking into the bathroom when he was supposed to be taking a bath; the tub was running, and he was sitting on the floor crying with The Order of The Phoenix in his lap. “Sirius just died!” he said, so upset.

    It will be interesting to see how I feel about A Casual Vacancy. I'm careful not to make an opinion, or read too many others', before I read it for myself.

  10. Based on the excerpt above I'm not at all tempted to read it. While I love the Harry Potter writing tone in Harry Potter books, I don't find it very appealing in a novel about adult relationships and such. But I'm open to being convinced! :D

  11. I agree with you about her tone, Claire. It's appropriate in children's books, but this excerpt sounds rather…well, casual. (What I liked about the Harry Potter books is her imagination, but that is still second to the way she turned nonreaders in my class into readers.)

  12. I enjoyed the first few books in the HP series, but quit after #4. My daughter, on the other hand, loved them. She's not much of a reader, but she read each and every one. I don't think she's read anything since!

    As far as this new novel by JKR, I have zero interest. That said, I can't wait to hear what you think! :)

  13. I loved Harry Potter (particularly the later books), but I wasn't particular jazzed about The Casual Vacancy, I do like this little snippet you have posted here, and you know, I think I might pick up this book after all.

    But as you said, it won't be thaat high on my TBR list either.

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