07 August 2013

The Casual Vacancy

By J.K. Rowling
Published by Little, Brown and Company
First Edition:  September 2012

This is a perfect example of "don't judge a book by its cover".  This is truly one of the worst covers I have seen and if the book had not been written by J. K. Rowling I doubt I would have picked it off the shelf.  That said, I have since seen the cover for the paperback version and I really like it; that's a book I would pick up and look at.

Cover looks aside, the book is terrific.  The story takes place in the village of Pagford where the death of councillor Barry Fairbrother puts the residents of the village at odds with each other.  Some residents want the changes that came around because of Fairbrother to stay, while others want his vacant council seat to be filled with someone who can undo what has already been done.  The most contentious issue for Pagford is the Fields, the scruffy social housing part of town that houses the local methadone clinic, and where its boundaries should lie.

The cast of characters is huge and Rowling does a good job of managing them.  From the opening chapters where news of Barry Fairbrother's death spreads like wildfire, to the depths of the book where the political plotting is at its utmost, to the resolution, the characters remain interesting and true to life. 

There is a lot of darkness in this book.  There is drug abuse, rape, domestic violence, bullying, prostitution, and self-mutilation.  I found, however, that I cared deeply about the characters and their lives.  If you read in bed, this is the sort of book that will leave you lying awake long after you have closed the cover, unable to sleep and wondering what will happen next.

I hear the BBC is airing The Casual Vacancy as a television drama in 2014.  Read the book first; it's rare for any movie or series to ever live up to the world you imagined whilst reading the book.