Thanks for the warning, Nyssa!
I'm about 1/4 through now and I can say, this book is not at all what I was expecting! That's partly my fault, as after I decide I want to read something, I then try to read as little about it as possible beforehand to maximise the discovery element while reading. So, somehow months ago I thought I'd heard this would be sort of an eclectic colourful murder mystery set in a small town. Of course, it does involve a death and a small town, and who knows it may end up involving murder, but certainly the tone and point of this book are miles away from what I was expecting!
Instead of a colourful mystery, this is, as Bookworm_Girl said above, a social commentary, and as Marella said above, very British in nature but I think still universal in its humaneness. The characters are complex and the book's tone is often, if not exactly dark, then very grey, very much willing to show the dirty underbelly of many different characters' minds and situations. And while I was expecting a more adult book, this is without a doubt an *Adult* book, filled with profanity, abuse, drug use and thoughts on sex among other things, though used in a naturalistic and realistic way and is not overdone or forced. Oddly though, the book does have a buoyancy to it, a colourful roundedness and energy to it that is reminiscent of Rowling's Potter series, even if the colours here are often much more adult, muted, realistic and dirty.
I must say, while not at all what I was expecting, I'm really liking it! And I'm surprised so far by the quality of Rowling's writing, being a children's author before this. I'm very impressed by her empathy with so many very different characters and her astute observations of the motivations and forces behind many of them.
While I'm only a fourth into it and really have no idea how I'll feel about it by end, I can't help already finding comparisons to it. What I've thought of is that it's a little reminiscent of Dickens and his social commentary, only without a protagonist in this case, and a lot of Eliot's Middlemarch with its focus on the various interwoven lives of very different citizens of a small English town, with a healthy dose of filmmaker Mike Leigh's (Meantime, All or Nothing, Secrets & Lies) gritty realistic humanity thrown in, maybe a pinch of Zadie Smith and her colourful yet realistic style, and perhaps even a tiny dash of Jane Austen thrown in to prettify parts of the town and some of the characters on the surface. To take it one step further, it almost seems that Rowling may have used Middlemarch as a conscious influence for The Casual Vacancy to sculpt it...but those are only first thoughts; I'll need to see if I still feel the same way by end. And I'm not saying that this is as good as all those I've compared it to, only that I can't help being reminded of them in reading.
Anyone expecting anything at all Potter-eque will probably be sorely disappointed (and maybe even shocked) here, so I'd suggest being sure the description interests you before starting (though I think if you're still interested after reading this post, then the book is probably for you). Rowling certainly seems to be ambitious with this and in my opinion she seems to be succeeding so far, so it'll be interesting to see how the rest of the book plays out.
Last edited by sun surfer; 09-30-2012 at 04:36 PM.