When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?
A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.
Summary from book, cover art from indiebound.org
My Review: Barry Fairbrother held an important seat on the parish council of Pagford. Never afraid to voice his opinions, Barry consistently fought for the underdog. He had great charisma making him likeable to most, and at least respectable to all. Unfortunately Barry Fairbrother has met an untimely death, leaving a vacancy on the parish council. These are large shoes to fill but several want a chance. As an election is set dirty secrets of the candidates and other parish council members begin to emerge on the council's webpage. It seems that the small quaint town of Pagford is not as impeccable as it may appear.
The Casual Vacancy contains a multitude of characters that are at first difficult to distinguish from one another. It takes a few chapters before the characters begin to emerge as individuals. Many will feel familiar, carrying the same attributes of people you are acquainted with. A majority of the cast appears self-centered, others come across as weak, and all are unlikable on some level. Though flawed most of the characters hold just enough redeeming qualities to make them quite enjoyable companions. Their dialog and actions create several humorous moments throughout the book. The choices they make are quite another matter. This book leaves one considering the circumstances that can lead to such heinous behaviors.
Overall the book has a good flow and Rowling’s vivid descriptions bring the town to life. The situation occurring in the town of Pagford and the characters’ various struggles keep the book captivating. Be forewarned that the overall essence of this novel is of profound sadness and hopelessness. The precarious situations the characters find themselves in and how one action leads to an unforeseen crumbling tower will certainly provide much to ponder over. This would make a great book club selection as it contains a variety of topics to discuss, such as what qualifies as value when we are considering a human life? It is surely a story that is not easily forgotten.
My Rating: 3 Stars
To Sum it up: No Harry Potter for sure, but this novel contains some magic of its own.
Sensitive reader: There were points were Rowling goes over-the-top trying to prove she can write a novel for adults. This novel contains a large amount of profanity, several sexual situations, and some instances of abuse. Much of this was necessary to the plot line but some seemed to be thrown in for pure shock value.