The Casual Vacancy left me with mixed emotions. First, it is a well-written, character-driven novel. The further I got into the book the harder it was to put down. There isn't a lot of action, but there is a lot of life going on in the book. The people seem real. Not all good or all bad, but complicated, as real people are.
When I first began reading the book the grittiness of it shocked me and made me think that Rowling wanted to prove she could write an "adult" book. Because this is an adult book, full of crudeness, violence, drug use, and sex talk. There is plenty of the Britain that Theodore Dalrymple writes about. Then I started thinking about it, and this town is no darker than the England of Harry Potter, it's just missing the magic. I was saddened that she had to go that direction, knowing that many young people will want to read this because she wrote it.
Taken on its own, this is a good book. It would be a good book discussion book. It won't follow Harry Potter into history as a must-read--and yes, I believe Harry and friends will stand the test of time--but it is one of the better books that I've read this year. If you like books to be all tied up in a bow with a happy ending, this isn't for you. If you like complex characters who carry the story in the actions of their rather mundane day-to-day lives woven into a surprisingly compelling book, then you will probably like it.
Final word: If the only reason you
are planning to read it is because you loved Harry Potter, you may want
to skip it. And if you've read the description and it has no appeal, except
for the fact that it's J.K. Rowling, you might want to skip it.