Tuesday, January 8, 2013

13/13 Challenge: Book One - The Casual Vacancy

The first book on my list (Welcome to Normal by Nick Earls) was a bit of a bust. A book of short stories that just didn't grab me. Usually I enjoy curling up with a heap of different tid-bits but I gave up on this one after 2 and a half stories. There was nothing really wrong with them it just really felt like they were writing exercises or scenes out of a bigger story. I love short stories that arouse your interest, give you a jolt, leave you wanting more - but this didn't do it. So that one is going back to the library.

Instead of going for the next one on the list I grabbed a new one as an impulse buy while shopping for something totally different.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling - a book I've been interested in reading but really didn't know what to expect.

A warning - if you are after a lighthearted holiday read with a feelgood happy ending then put this one back on the self. It really isn't what I was expecting. Gritty, intense, uncomfortable...but a really good read.

At first it reminded me of an Agatha Christie or Midsommer Murders type tale (without the murder) but the further I got into it it more closely resembled something along the lines of Jodie Picoult's The Tenth Circle (another one I highly recommend).

There are lots of interesting characters in this story and while JK Rowling doesn't use Picoult's technique of developing the characters and plot by using different characters as narrators at specific points, the effect is similar. You learn a lot about the characters and their inner motivations as the story develops. You won't like most (or maybe any) of the characters but you will recognise parts of yourself and parts of people in your life, and that can be in turn amusing, uncomfortable, revealing. I did wonder how the author lived with these people in her head while she was writing this. It must have been an exhausting and emotional process.

So, while the subject matter and the characters are difficult, the writing is excellent. This book sucked me in, and while it wasn't one I could read from cover to cover in one sitting I was compelled to put other things on hold so I could get to the end. I think it took less than three days and left me with that satisfied and spent feeling where I don't have the need to immediately pick up another book, but also with the urge to share the story and my reactions, to mull over the plot and the cast, to relieve bits at odd moments.
Books like these leave me wishing that my husband was a reader so that we could talk about it. Bring on the book club!

My reading for the next few weeks will mainly consist of Maths and Science textbooks, but that will give me the break I need to refresh before opening the next book on the list. I wonder which one will take my fancy?

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