Casual Vacancy & Cuckoo’s Calling — Reviews

September 25, 2013

I finally read The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling. 

I think sometimes J.K. Rowling’s….Rowlingness overshadows everything she does and we forget to actually examine the work. Which, of course, is why she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under a pseudonym. But anyway, I digress. Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that she became so famous because she is an exceptional storyteller. Her ability to draw her readers into the stories of these characters has not diminished now that she’s adjusted her target audience.

The Casual Vacancy is about a small township where everyone knows everyone and shows how things begin to unravel after a town council member and beloved father and friend dies. In some ways I imagine this could have been the sort of life the Dursleys would have had if Harry had never come to live with them — their concerns so tied to how others see them, scheming to be the most important in town, having the best gossip, etc.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is an old school detective novel. The reader follows surly, stoic Cormoran Strike as he investigates the supposed suicide of a model. There are hints scattered throughout as we see that Strike knows something doesn’t jive or feels hinky, but there are only a few full twists.

really enjoyed this. While at first it might seem like a departure for Rowling, it’s really still just an underdog searching for truth and justice. And that’s fairly familiar. But the storytelling is great — Strike walks the fine line between being a sympathetic and downright pathetic character. The way Rowling weaves the narrative, you can’t help but keep reading.

Perhaps it’s because I already knew and I was reading them back-to-back, but I did feel like there was just something about her writing that was identifiable in both books — certain turns of phrase and the ways in which she laid out a scene. But again, knowing beforehand, maybe I was looking for it…

All in all, I liked both books, but I think I might put The Cuckoo’s Calling slightly ahead. I’m not sure what that says, if anything, about me or the books, but there you have it.

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2 Responses to “Casual Vacancy & Cuckoo’s Calling — Reviews”

  1. Charleen said

    I do wonder that if I’d read The Cuckoo’s Calling before she was outed as the author, if I would have recognized her style or not. Unfortunately, I’ll never get the chance to find out.

    You make a good point, though, about The Casual Vacancy and how the Dursleys would have fit right in in that town (minus Harry, of course). I hadn’t thought about that before.

    • Thanks for reading! I do feel sort of cheated of the chance to identify her writing for myself, but I’ll survive.
      The idea of The Casual Vacancy being sort of Dursley-ish hit me pretty quickly. I just kept thinking that the people were so petty and over-involved in their neighbors’ lives.

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