When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
It’s taken me a long time to actually get around to buying and reading The Casual Vacancy. I love the Harry Potter books so I had some reservations when it came to J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel. What prompted me to actually read it was the series starting on TV, I wanted to read the book before I watched it (and I managed it, just!).
When it comes down to it you probably can’t get much further away from Harry. You probably wouldn’t even know that The Casual Vacancy was by the same author unless you’re a Potter addict who can spot J.K’s style. I can’t help comparing to Potter but it’s not really comparable. If you are looking for something with magic, or something exciting, or something fast paced you won’t get it with The Casual Vacancy.
The Casual Vacancy, you see, is not plot driven, it barely has a plot at all to be perfectly honest. It is more of a study of the characters. That means that despite the characters being very flawed you come to care at least somewhat, even whilst not liking most of them. Probably the most likeable character was Kay, she cared, but she was weak. Krystal was probably the standout character though, at least for me. She was caustic, but I admired her (note admired, not liked). I can’t imagine being friends with any of these people, but they are real.
It took me a long time to get into the book, you need to be prepared to wait, to take the time. There was enough to keep me going, until I realised that it was sort of like a soap (you know how in soaps there are no ‘normal’ families, they all have these ‘issues’). I suppose it’s meant to be a sort of ‘you never know what goes on behind closed doors’ type of thing, but it did put me off a little.
The ending hooked me though, one of those stay up for just one more paragraph/page/chapter type things. I hear that the TV series has changed the ending. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
A lot of people have criticised how much sex and bad language J.K has used in A Casual Vacancy. There is a lot, but I don’t think it’s completely unnecessary. People have been saying that it’s J.K’s way of saying she can write adult fiction. I think that makes her sound like a former child star who does a nude photo shoot to show that they are ‘all grown up’ (because of course becoming a woman automatically makes you a sex object). I don’t see it like that. People swear, people have sex. Can it be realistic if you make it all family friendly? Life isn’t always family friendly.
I intend to write something about the first episode of The Casual Vacancy later in the week.
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