This is one for our next radio book club (link at the end). We’ve spent quite a bit of time reading stories from long ago we decided to try a more modern contemporary book this time and settled on The Casual Vacancy. Could it top the Harry Potter series? Would she be able to write an adult novel? As a Potter fan would I hate the lack of wands and wizards???
No is the short answer!
This is a book of two halves really. It starts when Counsellor Barry Fairbrother drops dead from an aneurysm during his anniversary dinner and the events that take place in the small town afterwards as people scramble to fill his space on the committee.
As the story starts I did think I wasn’t going to like it. It seemed like Rowling was trying very hard to write a grown up book. The writing style is the same as for the Potter series however I got the feeling she sat and wrote this first section with a thesaurus never leaving her side. I certainly had to read it that way. Maybe I am not as well read as I think but the following words have never entered my vocabulary on a daily basis like they do in this story
I’m not ashamed to admit I had to get someone to help me pronounce some of these words. I’m still not sure about the last one. I found it very distracting to the story.
However by the halfway point she seems to have found some confidence in herself as an adult writer and settles down with the language allowing the reader to enjoy the story more. There are so many characters in this but yet each one is intricately put together and rarely do any personalities appear in more than one person. We have the bored housewife, the cowardly lawyer and the girlfriend he doesn’t want but can’t let go of, the overbearing council leader a man who’s power seems to be reinforced by the size of his stomach and so on. Only the teenagers who play a large part in the story are similar but only in the way that they are all damaged by some factor – adopted, abusive parents, daughter of drug addict prostitute mother, self harmer with a mother who doesn’t notice her existence. And all have an active part to play in how the events turn out at the end.
It actually reminds me of Stephen King works sometimes. There’s no supernatural horror only the every day horrors that happen when society lets certain people down but the way in which all these separate identities start coming together to build to an epic climax that had me crying on the bus (how embarrassing).
The last couple of chapters are some of the most page turning fiction I have ever read not to mention the most affecting. I don’t often cry over any book let alone in public. I’ve talked it over with someone and while they didn’t have the public waterworks they still felt the same when IT happens. I’d be interested to see how other people felt. And of the two big events which one actually had the most impact?
All in all a book that starts off a little clunky but by the end will have you completely hooked.
As mentioned at the beginning myself and Helen
(The Perks of being a Bookworm)
have a monthly book club internet radio show which can be found here. It would be great if you could tune in and leave us some feedback. Are there any books you would like us to discuss?
And I’d be interested in what people felt regarding a book club special on self help books in the January new year? Any recommendations to beat the winter blues?
The station can be found here www.wouthleedscommunityradio.org.uk
Every Saturday at 7.00