Melodrama oozes from every pore.
PLOT SYNOPSIS: When parish councillor Barry Fairbrother dies, war erupts over his seat in the town of Pagford.
REVIEW: In the excellent book "How Not to Write a Novel" there is an seam of bad writing known as "The Unruly Zit: When the author has read too much Bukowski". This when the author overdoes it with the disgusting details, where everything is repulsive. A Casual Vacancy is this, with a side helping of melodrama and banal social commentary. In a word this book is overdone
. There's no subtlety; everyone is either weak-willed, pathetic or monstrous. There's no tact; you will hear about every erection, see every scab. There's no humour; if there's a joke the author will probably explain it. This book piles on misery to the point of absurdity. It's every soap opera mashed together with the happy parts removed. Every issue is jammed in from self-harm, suicide, drugs, infidelity, to domestic abuse and yet the book has nothing to say
On the technical side the author has an annoying habit of giving people accents. God I wish she'd have learnt how irritating Fleur was because of this. There are far too many instances of telling which should have been showing and there are countless usages of brackets. There are too many characters, most of whom never rise above cardboard cut-outs,
and the book switches between them mid-paragraph like this is Dune or something. Some readers can chalk this up to style but it's a very tacky style.
For the record I wasn't fond of Harry Potter after the third book, and I think it's a good thing that the author is trying to branch out and do something new. No author wants to be a one-Potter pony. But this book is awful. It's overlong. It's condescending. It reeks too heavily of an author out of touch with ordinary, everyday people. It's as if the author doesn't care about the notion of empathy, that adult fiction is about inherently unlikable people. I'm reminded of a Superman story where Superman is dying, so he's racing around the world stopping super-villains and curing cancer, yet he still finds the time to save one suicidal teenager. That one page held more warmth, humanity and insight than this book had in five-hundred. That Superman story was funnier too.
CONCLUSION: This book isn't for children. It isn't for adults either. It's childish and will be forgotten soon enough.