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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, THE CASUAL VACANCY is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
As huge Harry Potter fans, we weren’t sure what to expect from J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults, but the bestselling author doesn’t disappoint. The Casual Vacancy takes a caustically funny deep dive beneath the surface of a seemingly idyllic English village. When a spot opens up on Pagford’s town council, the hamlet’s residents bare their fangs, exposing dangerous ambitions and hidden passions. Playing with a broad, interwoven cast of characters, Rowling delivers a dark and entertaining tale of love, lust, back-stabbing, jealousy and class warfare. Throughout it all, Rowling’s compassion for her highly imperfect subjects shines through.
On the face of it, Rowling's first adult book is very different from the Harry Potter books that made her rich and famous. It's resolutely unmagical: the closest thing to wizardry is the ability to hack into the amateurish Pagford Parish Council Web site. Instead of a battle for worldwide domination, there's a fight over a suddenly empty seat on that Council, the vacancy of the title. Yet despite the lack of invisibility cloaks and pensieves, Pagford isn't so different from Harry's world. There's a massive divide between the haves and the have-nots the residents of the Fields, the council flats that some want to push off onto a neighboring county council. When Councilor Barry Fairbrother born in Fields but now a middle-class Pagforder dies suddenly, the fight gets uglier. In tiny Pagford, and at its school, which caters to rich and poor alike, everyone is connected: obstreperous teenager Krystal Weedon, the sole functioning member of her working-class family, hooks up with the middle-class son of her guidance counselor; the social worker watching over Krystal's drug-addled mother dates the law partner of the son of the dead man's fiercest Council rival; Krystal's great-grandmother's doctor was Fairbrother's closest ally; the daughters of the doctor and the social worker work together, along with the best friend of Krystal's hookup; and so on. Rowling is relentlessly competent: all these people and their hatreds and hopes are established and mixed together. Secrets are revealed, relationships twist and break, and the book rolls toward its awful, logical climax with aplomb. As in the Harry Potter books, children make mistakes and join together with a common cause, accompanied here by adults, some malicious, some trying yet failing. Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren't much fun.
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