JK Rowling:The Casual Vacancy
JK Rowling acknowledged after “The Casual Vacancy” launch that “the idea just came to me, I had that almost visceral reaction when you know you want to do something” and that is exactly what this book is all about. This is the first adult book from Harry Potter’s author, which I can describe as “magnificent” and worth every coin spent. In the recent past, I’ve come across brilliant books but this one ranks among them. Set in a small-town community, the novel centres on an unexpected vacancy on the parish council that arises following the sudden death of a ‘good Samaritan’. “The Casual Vacancy” is set in the small British village of Pagford. Pagford is an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but 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. The book carries plenty of four-letter words outbursts.
The book tells the story of what happens after the unexpected death of a town official leaves a vacancy on the town’s governing body and opens with opens with the death of Barry Fairweather, a parish councillor in the fictional town of Pagford. When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. 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. To the deceased official, moral force in the story, seems to have hurt his wife with his dedication to his cause. Just before the election of Fairweather’s replacement on the parish council, anonymous messages reveal the inhabitants’ secrets begin appearing on Pagford’s online forum that created immense paranoia. The election sharply divides the apparently cosy community and reveals the snobbery, malice, darkness and desperation at the heart of the village. A long heated argument over what the middle-class village should do about the residents of a poverty stricken, drug and crime infested housing project on the edge of Pagford gets heated, interwoven with the personal lives and problems of book’s characters.
The book is filled with mostly unlikeable characters crossing the terrible and they all appear unhappy in one way or another, even if the only people who know that are themselves. It is clear they are judgmental, petty and violent and majority are beyond repair. For example the novel focuses on Terri Weedon, a drug addict and prostitute fighting with social services for custody of her son Robbie and her teenage daughter Krystal Weedon, the 16-year-old daughter of a heroin addict and prostitute from the Fields. Krystal’s behaviour is superb by today’s societies standard and the author seems to have deliberately ignored her own questions. The author treats Pagford as the epicenter for hypocrites and and the Fields is the home of deprivation. I was not surprised when few days ago an announcement was made that miniseries adapted from this book has been guaranteed a place on American television after HBO’s plan to team up with BBC on the development team. This book is all about adult stuff – sex, violence, rape, drug abuse and bullying.
NB:My review of The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling is based on paperback edition that was released July 2013.