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Author Topic: First Impressions (Warning: Spoilers!)  (Read 3368 times)

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April 07, 2013, 09:00:25 PM
Reply #20

Serpentzz

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(My first Discussion Station post! It's nice to see some familiar names from the Lounge  :hogwartsc:)

I think one of the things I immediately noticed about the The Casual Vacancy was the time I took to read it. Usually, if I am really into a book I will put off sleep and chores in order to whizz through the pages. However, I found myself almost laboured to read it at times; a sentiment expressed by other readers was the pacing in the first half, and I wholeheartedly agree, I spent a lot of my time "ploughing through". All in all, I think it took me two weeks (which is quite long considering I'm a fast reader and this was the first thing from Jo in five years!!). What was also strange was that I felt I almost had to like it and I think this stems from me loving HP so much. I'm not going to lie, If Jo's name wasn't on the cover, I don't think I would have read/borrowed/recommended it.

What Jo does do well is the portrayal of teenagers. I loved Andrew/Fats/Gaia/Sukhvinder and easily could have read more about their story; it made me smile whilst reading that Jo's strength lay with characterisation of children. However, I felt that nearly all  of the characters became defined by a singular flaw and their depth was only explored here (e.g. Sukhvinder's issues with self-harm, Mollinson's affair, Simon's abusive ways). I wondered whether Jo had thought of her characters and then decided that they would have, say, drug issues, or thought she was making a character with drug issues and built them around that. For me, the presentation of the flaw is too simplistic, and characters like Andrew and Gaia became my favourites for being much more dimensional. I felt a large flaw lay with the fact that there was too many characters with a lot of entwining relationships that made figuring out who was who in the early reading stages, difficult. I think of TCV in many ways as like a modern Dicken's, but the large number of characters withdrew from a more entertaining and deeper exploration of characters, like Bill Sykes and Miss Havisham and Jo did in Harry Potter, which is so much more interesting.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2013, 09:04:30 PM by Serpentzz »
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April 14, 2013, 05:29:38 PM
Reply #21

merrythought

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Welcome, Serpentzz! And, thanks for sharing your comments.

...I felt that nearly all  of the characters became defined by a singular flaw and their depth was only explored here (e.g. Sukhvinder's issues with self-harm, Mollinson's affair, Simon's abusive ways). I wondered whether Jo had thought of her characters and then decided that they would have, say, drug issues, or thought she was making a character with drug issues and built them around that. For me, the presentation of the flaw is too simplistic, and characters like Andrew and Gaia became my favourites for being much more dimensional. I felt a large flaw lay with the fact that there was too many characters with a lot of entwining relationships that made figuring out who was who in the early reading stages, difficult. I think of TCV in many ways as like a modern Dicken's, but the large number of characters withdrew from a more entertaining and deeper exploration of characters, like Bill Sykes and Miss Havisham and Jo did in Harry Potter, which is so much more interesting.

I agree with these thoughts, and admire the way you express them!  I too missed deeper characterization with this book; I think I would have been hooked earlier had there been some.  I've read many books which switch among multiple characters, and typically the sign of how well that's done is my reaction of frustration or even anger when the writer moves me on to a new chapter or section featuring a different character from the one I have just been reading about--but then, despite myself, I get sucked into the new character's story!  And while TVC did hold my interest in places, overall that feeling of being emotionally invested in the story did not come to me.  I applaud the book's message, but am lukewarm about its delivery.
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