Published by Little Brown And Company on 2012 September 27
Buy on Amazon
A BIG NOVEL ABOUT A SMALL TOWN ...
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?
Before the Harry Potter series, I usually spend my time reading Pinoy romance short stories. I must admit that I don’t have patience reading through hundreds and hundreds of pages or else, I would start raging inside and end up hating the book without really knowing the whole story. But HP changed that all and now, I considered Joanne Kathleen Rowling as one of the most important influences in my life. For one thing, she gave us Harry Potter. And secondly, she gave me a reason to sit through the day or through the night flipping the pages of every Harry Potter series. And thirdly, she gave me a hobby that compensated for my other bad hobbies (Can you actually relate to that?xD). With these reasons, it became my lifetime pledge to stalk JK Rowling on the net to regularly monitor her writings.
I don’t know about you but when Harry Potter ended, it was like I’m floating in a void trying to think of all the million reasons why something so wonderful has to end. I still clamored for more, desperately wanting all the things that JK has to offer. And after years of waiting (since HP 7), JK Rowling’s new book was finally launched, The Casual Vacancy. I was so excited and I had even sleepless nights just thinking about it. Although I hate spoilers, the urge to scour the net for reviews was too much to handle and I actually hated myself for that.
The reviews (including Goodreads) that I’ve read were not so good. And I was placed in a dilemma whether to buy the book or not, fearful that my JK Rowling’s image would be tainted forever in my mind. I don’t want that to happen because she is my hero. So I tortured myself looking from afar at the Casual Vacancy Books neatly piled up in our local bookstores. In my mind, I know that I had to take things slowly… that I have to win over my paranoia. That I have to myself over and over again that it shouldn’t matter, that JK Rowling has already done something amazing and I shouldn’t care less if TCV is a crap. So I proceeded to purchase an E-book and the rest was history.
So after almost two weeks of reading the book, here are my views:
I will be biased on this one. There are so many things in this world that I do not like and number five on that list is Politics. This is the primary reason why it took me 2 weeks to finish reading the book that could have been read for 2-3 days. While reading through the pages of TCV, I kept losing energy to scroll down to the next page. I admit that I was never a fan of politics and all I have for it is hatred.
Reading TCV was like walking in oblivion where you just give up trying to determine the kind of direction that you wanna go to. Perhaps I’m crazy or just plain old stupid but I failed to grasp the whole point of the book. So Barry Fairbrother, the old good Parish Councillor, died. And almost everyone developed self-interest on the vacancy his death had created. And a war between pro and anti-Barry and his ideals suddenly engulfed the little town of Pagford. Within the two warring camps, mini-wars are also been waged between married couples, parents and children, teenagers to teenagers, friends to friends, etc. In addition to that, there’s also rape, prostitution and poverty issues that need to be solved. There are a lot of conflicts in the book that while reading through it, you’ll just find yourself lost and had to make hasty reviews of the previous pages. In simpler words, there are a lot of conflicts in the book that failed to connect at the end.
For example, I could not quite fathom the necessity to kill Krystal Weedon (one of the important characters of the story) for something that is not related to the purpose of the book. The reason of her death was because of her own stupidity and selfishness and was not in any way related to the main conflict of the book. At the end of the story, it did not solve if Bellchapel clinic would remain to cater the rehabilitation of all drug abuser or if the Fields will be transferred to the jurisdiction of Yarvil. It did not even provide a clear solution whether her mother, Terri Weedon, had come to her senses and turned a new leaf from her heroin addiction. And most importantly, how was Krystal’s death impacted the local election of Pagford and the intentions of those people who are in the Parish Council Seats? Alas, there’s only a little impact.
And there was Miles, who finally won the election not because he was good but because he was just the winner of all losers who run for the casual vacancy. In the end, there was no mention what kind of steps he’ll be taking to improve the quality of living in Pagford and most importantly, did the events of the book changed his views on the Fields and Bellchapel Clinic?
There are so many things that I would like to question about TCV. About how some scenes were more like fillers than being essential to the portrayal of the whole plot. And as I am typing this review right at this moment, I am feeling the itch to delete the whole document because I could not even properly arrange my thoughts about the book. It was confusing, like a magic spell that gone haywire.
I suggest that if you want to know the whole story, please do the obvious and read it.
So after the plot disappointed me, I am in for another disappointment with the characters. There are so many of them that I failed to empathize with any of them. The characters were either shallow or self-centered or arrogant or just plain stupid. I do not even like Mary Fairbrother, who, even at the death of her husband remained unforgiving. Seriously, isn’t there someone on the book who has the slightest redeemable quality? The oldies were even annoying as the teens.
Sometimes, you love the book because of its plot eventhough the characters are so darn hateful. But TCV has neither plot nor characters to love about. Pagford is full of people who are self-righteous, self-centered, and arrogant. Thus, you wonder why that Pagford is still there and not crumbling into pieces.
Interaction and Dialogue
Well, the only redeemable thing about TCV is that I find the interactions and dialogue of the characters witty and funny. And eventhough, some of the dialogues weren’t the type to pass for an intelligent convo, it gave me this feel-good feeling. I guess I have to give JK Rowling the salute for always making conversations and interactions among characters interesting, funny and at the same time, sad.
I especially like the interactions between the Mollison family (Howard, Shirley, Miles, Samantha and well, Mo). And that of the Price family. The first family appeared to be united but on a deeper sense, they are very much divided. Like how Shirley disliked Sam and vice versa. Like how Sam disliked his own husband Miles. And who would ever forget about the Price family? The brutal, sadistic and stupid father Simon Price and his wife who stopped using her brains. And Andrew Price, the acne-faced son, who I’m not really sure if he is on her mother or father’s side.
Because of the effort and the interesting dialogues, I give TCV three (3) stars. The book could have saved its face if:
• The ending did not make us hanging on a cliffhanger.
• The plot was not that complicated, having a lot of corners to turn and only to find out that it’s a dead end.
• There’s one character that emerged a hero/heroine at the end. I don’t see Krystal or Sukvhinder or Arf or Price falling into that category.
• The characters weren’t so many that while reading the book, you feel like you’re drowning from memorizing all the names of the character.
Moral Lesson of the Story
This is a new portion of my book review which I have forgotten to add into my previous reviews. As I have said in the “About Me” Section, there are no crap books. Critiquing a novel is always based on your personal opinion and is therefore, subjective. Aside from being a work of art, books are a great way to pick up moral lessons that in one way or another teach us something as we go on with life. No matter how frustrated I am with the book, there’s always the silver lining out there and that is, I will learn something from what I’ve read.
TCV is actually a perfect depiction of the “everything is connected to everything” concept. Our every action produces consequences that do not only affect us but also affect (directly or indirectly) everyone and everything around us. This teaches us to be always mindful of our actions and anticipate the likely consequences.
Second, TCV teaches us one of the most basic lessons in this world: the importance of the parents’ guidance on a growing child. In TCV, we saw how the little town of Pagford was rocked because of the actions of teenagers who were neglected and abused by their parents. Had they been treated with care and positively supported by their parents, things in Pagford could have happened differently… less trauma, no deaths and a better community.