Feb 17, 2016

The Casual Vacancy



I didn't read this book in 2012, during the much publicised release, but I did buy it. I wanted to wait. I wanted to put some distance between myself and some of the reviews I read. I wanted to forget that JK Rowling wrote it, so I wouldn't make the mistake others did of trying to compare it with Harry Potter, which is like comparing apples and oranges (to use an old phrase). In the end I forgot to read it at all.

Then one day I saw the audiobook in the second hand shop. I bought it and listened to the story read by Tom Hollander in my car. It's a great way to make good use of my travel time and help get into my TBR pile.

Synopsis: When Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, the town of Pagford is in shock. Then comes the realisation that his passing makes a casual vacancy available in his seat on the council. The parish is already firmly divided on politics, especially the issue of the Fields, an estate with a poor reputation,  and a methadone clinic which some of the Pagford Parish Council would like to see closed forever.
With Barry's position becoming available, each side tries to ensure their candidate gains the seat. Chaos ensues. Secrets are revealed, slurs are made, people lose their cool and lines are drawn. The ending is completely unsettling, and brilliant.

I was disappointed to hear that many of the important social statements are going to be left out of the mini-series, as they are considered too dark. People don't like a mirror being held up to their behaviour, and they don't want to really think about the consequences of their actions on other people. I think J K Rowling was brave to shine a light on some of these issues, and I look forward to reading more of her work written for adults.

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