I’m in two minds about this one. It was a reasonably enjoyable book: decent characters, excellent sense of place, not too fast, not too drawn out, interesting plot and extremely well told.
While I was reading it though, I just had the sense that I should be enjoying it more.
Part of the problem was that the book was a little too precise, perhaps a little too formulaic for my tastes. The prose was very well constructed and flowed nicely, but it didn’t really deviate in terms of energy or style; there were large tracts of text where I just, sort of, drifted off…
There was also an awful lot of exposition too; so much in fact that there was almost no room to let the characters grow inside your head; their exact thoughts and feelings about everything and everyone around them was laid out in the most painstaking detail. Now, usually I find this unnecessary, but in this case there were so many characters who thought and behaved in much the same way (that’s village life for you) that I was happy with any hint I could get. Nevertheless, on a number of occasions I found myself reading about one character only to realise that I’d mistaken her for someone else entirely. And here I think was the biggest problem for me: the characters held no surprises. I might go further to say they there a little stereotypical: the people on the council estate neglected their offspring and took drugs, the older villagers were comfortably well-off and politely racist, and the professional indian couple focussed on their more academically capable children.
Still, The Casual Vacancy worked for me was in the setting: I really got the “Little Britain” feel which remained consistent throughout the book. It was earthy, and nicely grounded in the real world.
I just wish I had enjoyed it more. 🙁