What’s it about?
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 facade 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…
This is J.K Rowling’s first novel specifically for adults following the hugely successful Harry Potter series. Having not read any of the Harry Potter books I wasn’t sure what to expect, not that I was expecting this to be similar in anyway.
The book is split into 7 parts, each introduced by Charles Arnold-Baker, Local Council Administration, no idea who he is but the excerpts from this ‘administration’ relate to what happens in that part of the book. Eg; 6.11 A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred: (a) when a local councilor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or (b) when his notice of resignation is received; or (c) on the day of his death… this introduces part one and the main characters death. From there, it’s all about the characters, the plotting and their interactions. It’s all there, everything you’d kind of expect to be going on in a small town: marriage problems, domestic violence, teenage sex, bullying and drug abuse to name but a few.
This took a really long time for me to get into, we’re talking a couple of hundred pages and I actually got quite bored and considered giving up. However, someone mentioned to me that it was a ‘slow burner’ and that’s it exactly was it was. From around the 200 / 250 page mark I found it much more gripping and was more intrigued into how it was going all going to pan out.
I think this novel is very much character driven rather than plot led and essentially reads like a soap opera in a novel. The actual election part seems to come and go quite quickly and with not much description but it’s the leading up to and after that’s more explosive.
There are so many characters I did find myself losing track of who was who and what family they fitted into. The character’s story line I was most interested in was Krystal’s. She was an explosive character yet had a very caring and protective side to her which I found to be quite endearing – despite her family background and I felt so sorry for her in the end.
One thing I found quite irritating was that some of the chapters started and finished in the middle of pages. As a reader who likes to read in chapters this was annoying.
Overall, it’s a good read once you’ve got past all the intro’s of who’s who so read if you’re a fan of Rowling but be prepared to have to put the work in at the beginning!
Available in hardback or Kindle on Amazon The Casual Vacancy