The Casual Vacancy
J. K. Rowling, 2012
Apparently, Pagford is an idyllic English village. A small place at the feet of a hill peaked by an ancient abbey and crossed by a river, with cobblestone streets and a wonderful main square, decorated with flowers and plants. The only negative side of the village is the neighborhood known as The Fields, a highly degenerated place full of low class citizens and broken homes, where drug consumption is quite usual. The relations between the pagfordians and the fielders depend on just one link, Barry Fairbrother, member of the parish council of Pagford.
The sudden death of Barry Fairbrother shocks all the people in the small town, and despite the grief that everybody feels, marks the outbreak for a hard struggle for the vacancy left in the parish council. The background of this political struggle is the relation between Pagford and The Fields. Some of the councilors what to keep the degenerated neighborhood joined to Pagford, but the others want to break these relation and return The Fields to the city of Yarvil, to which Pagord also depends. The main actors in this political struggle are well defined. The antifielders are leaded by Howard Mollison, a local entrepreneur in his sixties, her wife Shirley and his associate Maureen. In the other side we have Parminder Jawanda, an indian born GP. Three candidates join the political race to reach the Pagford parish council: Simon Price, Miles Mollison and Colin Wall. While Mollison and Wall are the candidates of the antifielders and of the profielders, Price candidature is only aimed by his ambition to become a respected citizen of Pagford.
However, the politic struggle is not the main subject of the book. In the end, this book explores the lifes of sad people, people that are involved in a quiet struggle against each other. First of all, we notice the opposition between the young ones and their parents. Krystal Weedon fights to have a better life against her mother Terri, a junkie with poor expectations. Krystal was Fairbrother's pupil, and his death leaves her totally hopeless. Andrew Price has to share his life with a violent father, and the only light in his life is the love he feels for Gaia Bawden and his friendship with Stuart "Fats" Walls. Fats is a rebellious guy that can not find the proper way of living an "authentic" life. Gaia has been forced to move from London to Pagford because of her mother's love affair. Sukhvinder Jawanda suffers bullying at school and her mother's inconsideration at home.
But the map of Pagford's sadness is even bigger. Samantha Mollison regrets her hole life since the moment she got pregnant when she was about to start a travel around the world with her fiance Miles. Her business is facing bankrupt and the relation with Miles is nothing but boring. Kay Bawden knows that her love affaire with Gavin is nothing but a disaster, and she regrets having left London for a man that doesn't really love her.
All that said, it is obvious that I have found this book a terribly sad book. Sad, but beautifully written. It is a story about what happens in a small community, about all the hatred that lays inside the hearth of a small village, in the mind of apparently happy people. It is also a book about different ways of struggle. The quiet fight between to ways of thinking what is the best for the people; the fight between the young ones and the adults; the opposition between those who think that have all they need to be happy and those who feel deeply unsatisfied with this kind of happiness.
I have to admit that I would have missed this wonderful novel if it hadn't been a school recommendation (thank you Carol!). I hadn't paid attention to these book because, to be honest, I thought that J. K. Rowling had little to offer to literature after Harry Potter. Fortunately, now I can say that she still has a lot of things for us. I have found The Casual Vacancy a extremely good novel, a book that gains interest with every page you read. Totally recommended.