I bought this because a glittery friend whined and badgered me and threatened not to talk to me unless i did so we could discuss it together. All i can say now, in response to that, is that she had better realise how grateful i am to her for her pushy ways.
This has been a really successful read, quick, and demanding, and enjoyable, and clever. I read a review or a portion of one somewhere which said, as i remember it, that while Rowling is no George Eliot, she does manage to portray the life of a small town in complexity and completeness in much the same way; i thin my response is two-fold: George Eliot was no George Eliot back when she was writing and publishing, and surely showing the completeness of life is precisely what made Eliot Eliot.
Rowling has written about a small town somewhere in the West Country (though, i have to admit, for some reason it felt like somewhere in Kent or Sussex at first), which has troubles partially brought on by its location close to a city, with all the social ills that can bring. Matters are brought to a head in Pagford, the town, by the death of a Councillor whose seat will have to be filled; the machinations of the First Citizen of the town, the three people standing for the seat, and the families surrounding them, drive the action of the plot.
The characters are surprisingly real, gritty i expect they have been called, in particular the children showing in marked contrast to Rowling's previous children; they have real concerns, revolving around such truths as ageing, sex, drugs, poverty, anguish, and depression. None of them is purely good, but each have points at which they appeal, some to a greater extent than others. I was particularly moved by one of the two deaths at the end of the book, as the character had, in some ways, been among the most attractive in the book; i suppose a great author (and despite what the review i referred to earlier said, i believe that one day Rowling will be officially listed among them) cannot afford to allow an emotion such as affection to get in the way of telling the story. I think back to the Harry Potter series, a number of well liked characters die during the course of that, as well. So, though it probably doesn't need saying, The Casual Vacancy is a success for me; there is no doubt that if and when Rowling writes again, i shall read.