A few things to note (my own disclaimer):
- Did I read this because I like the "other" books? Yes. I wanted to see how the first novel for adults would be like.
- Am I an avid JK Rowling fan? Not really. I mean, I love the Harry Potter world, and have one book in the series on my shelf, but I never camped out to get the next installment of Harry Potter. I don't think I've visited Pottermore online, unfortunately, and I even lived two hours away from the Harry Potter theme park in Florida and, while I always wanted to go, I never did in the two years I lived there before we moved back to Virginia Beach. I was sad when the last book and movie in the series was released, however. It's an incredible achievement and part of pop culture, whether or not you like the writing.
- Give Rowling a chance. She's created an incredible world before and assuming that The Casual Vacancy won't be any good just because you feel Harry Potter is theonlycharacterthatmatters is like relegating child actors with the same punishment simply because we can't see them as capable of anything else.
- Get through the first fifty to sixty pages. There are A LOT of characters and initially, it's hard to keep track of everyone. However, if you can get through that first section, it will not be tough to remember who is who as they are all memorable (and nasty). Then, you can settle down and enjoy the story. ( I would recommend that when the paperback is released, the publisher may want to add a "cast of characters" page as a reference.
- Yes, the synopsis sounds boring. I totally agree. It never grabbed my interest and maybe that's why it wasn't written under a pseudonym? Writing it under Rowling's name would guarantee purchases, whereas I don't think that writing it under a pen name would have made anyone care about the book, just based on the synopsis alone.
- So, forget about the synopsis.
- And, forget about the "other" books.
Barry Fairbrother is the quintessential good guy. Although raised in the "Fields," the spot of town where the "riff-raff" live, he's been able to grow into more than his birthplace ever would suggest him to become and now lives in Pagford. With a wife and children, his place in the community as a family man who gives back is further extended with his seat on the Pagford Parish Council. His presence raises the hackles of others on the council, simply because Fairbrother, as his name would suggest, prefers to deal with the "Fields" and the town of Yarvil, fairly. Decades before, the boundary lines between Yarvil and Pagford overlapped by an accidental sale of property, and consequently, certain areas remain in Yarvil but are the financial responsibility of Pagford, namely the Bellchapel Clinic, which doles out needed methadone to recovering addicts in the immediate area. When the lease on the clinic comes up, a battle begins to take shape between Pagford and Yarvil, opening up the decades-old wound and no one is exempt from the fray. When Barry dies unexpectedly, his seat on the town council becomes a crucial spot that could swing the final decision of Yarvil and Pagford lines, and for Bellchapel staying open. It's now come to the final showdown, and with battles between parents and children, neighbors, friends, and spouses, everyone is fair game to suffer gossip and rumor.
I tried to fluff up the synopsis a bit more to be somewhat more engaging and I'm not sure I did it any justice. I assure you that while no matter how challenging it may be to come up with a satisfying and intriguing overview of the book, it's really not possible. It just sounds so boring. But, my friends, I can also assure that this book ultimately is anything but boring. Just get through those first fifty or so pages!
I read quickly and did not want to put it down. It's the sort of book to read while on a rainy day, and the weather complied the entire weekend in Virginia Beach so it fit perfectly for my mood. While the characters in the book are not the sort you'd ever want as your friend, social standards and hypocrisy are cut open and each protagonist is simultaneously a hideous antagonist. It is a reminder to turn the mirror on yourself initially before passing judgement on others and each character in this story is a contradiction through and through.
And although some want to help, the story thoughtfully trudges through the harsh reality that sometimes, a local system of government, social work, medical care, and more, can accidentally do more harm than good as well-intentioned people are held hostage by excessive rules. In the end, when it most matters to get involved in one of the most heartbreaking moments, it's tough to find anyone to step in. Instead, all who could have helped expected "someone else" to get involved, and that can be the most horrendous danger of all. Apathy may not be a crime, but disregard in the most obvious moment when it really matters, can be terrifying.
|I wish the illustration of the town on the back was used for the cover|
Will you love this? Will you even like this? I can tell you that I did and quite a bit. I will advise you that preconceived ideas should completely be thrown out the window. JK Rowling has delved into the darker parts of humanity and she's done it extremely well, crafting a story with substance and surprise, one that kept me thinking even after I read the final heart-wrenching scenes. While there are a lot of characters, she ties it all up nicely with each characters' story concluding without confusion. I was surprised, comforted, shocked and ultimately content with The Casual Vacancy and I urge you all to give this book a chance. Forget the "other" books, forget the other big newspaper book reviews that were not glowing, and instead recognize that she, as an artist, surely can create more than one universe for us to enjoy. With that knowledge, I comfortably await her next book; it's certain to be another novel firmly entrenching us in another world of her creation yet again.
Check back next week to read my thoughts which will include a few chatty spoilers!
Passage of Note:
It was curious how often everything was back to front, the inverse of what they told you; Fats was starting to think that if you flipped every bit of received wisdom on its head you would have the truth. He wanted to journey through dark labyrinths and wrestle with the strangeness that lurked within; he wanted to crack open piety and expose hypocrisy; he wanted to break taboos and squeeze wisdom from their bloody hearts; he wanted to achieve a state of amoral grace, and be baptized backwards into ignorance and simplicity. (p.76)Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: 9/27/12
FTC Disclosure: I purchased the first edition hardcover on release day. It will stay on my shelves, thankyouverymuch.
About the Author
What can be written that you don't already know? Rowling is the creator and author of the Harry Potter empire, resulting in publications of the series in 73 languages and 450 million copies sold. The Casual Vacancy is her first novel for adults.
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