The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy

by J K Rowling

by J K Rowling

This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years. Why I haven’t read it sooner I can’t explain. But after much prevarication, I have finally taken the plunge and am very glad that I d

The Casual Vacancy is a refreshing and ambitious observation of small-town England at its best and its worst. The casual vacancy of the title refers to the vacancy on the Pagford Parish Council when charismatic Barry Fairbrother drops dead on page 3 (Rowling wastes no time in getting stuck into the plot).

The ensuing election campaign is the catalyst to a series of events and revelations that form the plot of this story. Relationships are tested and antagonisms that have bubbled under the surface for years take centre stage. Whilst Rowling shies away from pushing any one of the characters too far to the forefront, it is clear that it is the teenagers that play the biggest part in unravelling the town’s hidden secrets. If a y character can be said to hold centre stage, it is the force Krystal Weedon. Councillor Fairbrother had been the only person who believed in her and his sudden death leaves the 16-year-old adrift. Without his guiding hand and confidence, what hope is there of escaping the cycle of drugs and abuse that are so commonplace in The Fields?

The Fields is a council estate on the fringes of the town that provides much of the focus of the election as locals campaign to have responsibility for it transferred to the nearby town of Yarvil. Relationships between those who support the shifting of the boundary and those who want to keep the estate and its residents part of Pagford for much of the impetus for the plot, and the way Rowling brings the very different characters to life is now of the reasons the book is such a good read.

The Casual Vacancy is entertaining but also insightful as Rowling throws back the covers to reveal the petty jealousies, resentments, loves and hates of the various characters that populate this enthralling book.

I enjoyed the journey and was particularly taken with Krystal’s tragic but heartwarming story. Of all the characters she is the one who seems to lose the most. She is very misunderstood by everyone around her and her voice is never heard above the clamour of those whose status seems to give their views greater credence.

All in all, a very gripping and enjoyable read. Rowling does not shy away from the seedier side of life, nor does she miss the opportunity to inject some humour when appropriate.