The Casual Vacancy

J.K. Rowling, read by Tom Hollander. Hachette Audio, unabridged, 15 CDs, 18 hrs., $44.98 ISBN 978-1-61969-500-9
What secrets lurk in the hearts of the residents of Pagford? This is the central question in Rowling’s dark novel that charts the cutthroat competition for an empty seat on the town council. In this audio edition, the challenge for narrator Tom Hollander is the book’s varied cast, which features a dozen main characters and many minor ones—all requiring unique voices and accents. Additionally challenging is the fact that Rowling’s characters often act one way in public and another way—a rather horrid way—in private. Much to his credit, Hollander handles all of this with great aplomb, whether he’s voicing the boozy Samantha, her pompous father-in-law, or Fats, a skinny teenager who very well might be a sociopath. Hollander exhibits particular skill creating a full range of voices for the book’s male characters, e.g., the timid squeaks of the commitment-phobic Gavin and the curt, deep grunts of duplicitous Simon Price. Hollander’s narration captures the sardonic wit of the novel, animating the author’s acerbic observations of human weakness with intelligence and style. Hollander even sings, offering a solid rendition of “Morning Has Broken” in a pivotal funeral scene. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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