Hope you have all had a good Christmas! I have been so busy this last week that I’ve got a bit behind with my daily challenges. I didn’t want to rush out a response for each day and not put any thought into it so instead I put the blog on hold and waited until I had time to do it justice. I’ll try to catch up this week though so there should (hopefully) be a few more posts in the next few days.
As I keep saying, these questions are getting harder and they are also making me feel a bit inadequate about the amount of books that I’ve read. In my head I have read a lot of books, but when it comes to thinking of responses to these challenges I have started to doubt that assumption. I am beginning to think that I have in fact read some books quite a few times and then forgotten half of the rest of the books I have read. Which leaves me with limited resources to draw upon for this challenge. However I do feel inspired to carry on my top 100 books challenge in the new year, as the whole point of starting it was to read a more varied collection of books and to also read some of the books that I have always wanted to read but haven’t quite managed to yet.
Now for today’s challenge of most underrated book I didn’t wanted to revisit a book I had already reviewed for my book challenge or write about a book that I will be rereading in the future for that challenge so instead I had to choose a book from what was left. In the end I chose this book as when the book first came out the reviews weren’t very kind, although anything that was to be published by this author was going to come under heavy scrutiny, and I feel that in the main the reviews were unjust and this publicity would have affected a lot of people’s opinions of this book. So it may have had a vast amount of publicity and most of the reading public would have heard of this book but it still may not have been picked up on many people’s radars due to the bad press it had received. Hence the most underrated book accolade.
As you may already know, The Casual Vacancy is probably as far as you can get from the world of Harry Potter in terms of content. It is set in what seems to be a sleepy, rural town and is essentially a piece of social commentary looking at all walks of life from the large houses with the picturesque views to the run down council estate encroaching on the way of life the more conservative residents of Pagford are trying to cling to. Obviously everything in the book is fiction, but reading it I felt that a lot of the characters and the lives that they live could be found in any town. However the characters weren’t necessarily clichéd, or at least on the surface they may have been but as the story moves forward and the story lines for each character unravel and intertwine, you see more of each character and they become more 3D and more real. It is through their actions that you begin to see who they really are: their opinions and how they treat their fellow neighbours allow the reader to judge them. But that is one of the themes of this book, judging people on face value, and you soon learn that you as a reader may have judged a character too soon as the plot twists unfold.
Now I do have a very large confession to make, I am cheating slightly on today’s challenge as I have not actually finished this book (yet). I’m just over halfway through, the book is set in parts so I am at the beginning of part three. I can see where some of the reviews were coming from; the book is not necessarily gripping: it flits between several different characters and it is sometimes hard to remember where you left off with one character by the time you make your way back to them again, but in my opinion it doesn’t mean that it is not a good book. As you would expect from J K Rowling, the writing is easy to read but still high quality, her characters as I’ve already said are brought to life one page at a time, and she is so descriptive with the town itself that I really feel I can imagine it fully. Reading this book so far I could just imagine a televised series shot in a documentary style way, following each character just like the book does. Maybe this should have been a script instead of a book, but then I feel that J K Rowling’s writing talents would have been wasted if she had done that – we would have had the tv producer’s opinions and views and not hers which would have been a big shame.
I would recommend this book as a slice of what English life is probably like for most people. It is not the streets of London or Manchester in the latest gritty, British drama about drug dealers, it is not the quintessential England you see on Midsomer Murders or the latest Agatha Christie adaptation, or even the flashy, over-the-top characters on one of the many reality tv shows. It is a mix of the rich and the poor, the well offs and the down and outs, those with a good upbringing and those who are having to bring themselves up, and about how they associate with and live their lives next door to each other without perhaps seeing life from the other’s point of view.