Monday, 1 January 2018

The Casual Vacancy

So, number four of my unreviewed book backlog, not Harry Potter, but you can kind of recognise her style. I couldn't help but be curious about 'The Casual Vacancy' by J.K. Rowling having had Harry be a part of my life for so many years. She writes for grown ups pretty much like she writes for children, it's all about the plot. So councillor Barry Fairbrother drops dead in the golf club car park, and it sets the scene for some serious infighting in the village of Pagford, and a lot of long held secrets are going to get a public airing. While the characters and the presentation of social class are rather clich├ęd I found myself sucked into the drama in spite of myself, though with nobody to root for since pretty much everybody is either nasty or pathetic. In fact it is the nastiness that is her strength as a writer, because they were all nasty in different ways and the plot is driven by the behaviour of these nasty people. 

Here Howard and Maureen delight in announcing Barry's death to Parminder:

"Parminder remained quite still, with her hand in her purse. Then her eyes slid sideways to Howard.
'Collapsed and died in the golf club car park,' Howard said, 'Miles was there, saw it happen.'
More seconds passed.
'Is this a joke?' demanded Parminder, her voice  hard and high-pitched.
'Of course it's not a joke,' said Maureen, savouring her own outrage. 'Who'd make a joke like that?'
Parminder set down the oil with a bang on the glass-topped counter and walked out of the shop.
'Well!' said Maureen, in an ecstasy of disapproval. '"Is this a joke?" Charming!'
'Shock,' said Howard wisely, watching Parminder hurrying back across the Square, her trench coat flapping behind her. 'She'll be as upset as the widow, that one. Mind you, it'll be interesting,' he added, scratching idly at the overfold of his belly, which was often itchy, 'to see what she ...'
He left the sentence unfinished, but it did not matter: Maureen knew exactly what he meant. Both, as they watched the Councillor Jawanda disappear around the corner, were contemplating the casual vacancy: and they saw it, not as an empty space but as a magicians's pocket, full of possibilities." (p.41-2)

I didn't like the place because it had all the disadvantages of small village life, with snobbery and nosiness top of the list, and none of the nice community bonding that is supposed to exist there, so although I enjoyed the story and its denouement I did not care enough about anyone, not even poor Krystal and little Robbie, which meant it lacked something in the reading.

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