Just like all of the Harry Potter novels, I purchased this book to be delivered on publishing day. Unlike Harry Potter, I have only just read it. I highly suspect that its average rating can partially be blamed on the fact that it isn’t the world-beloved boy wizard, saving the his friends between its pages; also it is adult fiction, and a fiction that is unpleasant in just about every way. I daresay that Ms. Rowling might have done herself and the book a favor had she written her first book after graduating from Hogwarts under a pseudonym; I wonder if the reviewers consciously or unconsciously were a little extra hard on the author because they thought writing for children to be much easier than writing for adults. Many adults who have read and love the Potter series will laugh at them for even thinking that (this reader included).
This is the tale of a small town in England, told from the points of view of several of its inhabitants. At the opening of the story, Barry Fairbrother dies of a brain aneurysm. This sets off a series of issues, revelations and problems which do nothing but show the ugly side of humanity that people prefer to keep behind closed doors. There’s a festering that slowly makes its way across the town, the classes and the families, some of whom have lived in Pagford since birth. Barry Fairbrother was a huge supporter of an area called the Fields, mainly because he came from there. He was allowed an education in Pagford which meant the difference between having what we would call The American Dream versus a projects-type of nightmare.
Barry served on the parish council and was usually one of two or three councilors who wanted to serve the Fields, which includes a methodone clinic; however the remainder of his fellow council were keen to give it back to Yarvil, the next town over, and close the clinic. Once Barry dies, everything is up in the air and there’s quite a fight brewing for who will take over his casual vacancy of the council. The people in this town all seem to have a secret or two, ones that would lessen them in the eyes of the inhabitants. After Barry’s death, someone starts posting these secrets on the parish website, and they each have startling consequences.
J. K. Rowling is a fantastic writer. Though I found it quite easy not to like many of the people of Pagford and its environs, the actions of these citizens were, unfortunately, so real. The pompous head of the council; his jealous wife; the hideous and abusive husband and father; the heroin-addicted mother; and all of the children who do what’s in their power to not be “just like them.” I am still struggling with the theme here and what we’re supposed to learn from it all, but don’t let that keep you from reading this slice of life portrait of a town whose buried secrets don’t have to be explosive to kill.
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling was published September 27, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. This was a purchase.
Genre: Adult Fiction
COYER Scavenger Hunt #31: Read a book by an author you’ve previously read and given 5 stars. (2 points)