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11 October 2012 @ 01:08 pm
the casual vacancy  
I finished The Casual Vacancy this morning.

I am still sort of collecting my thoughts, but overall I guess I have to say I liked it, since once I got over the first 100-or-so page hump of "wait? who? what? who is this? there's so many people. who's that?", I was really into the story and found it a hard book to put down. Maybe my degree should be RIPPED FROM ME for having such plebeian tastes, but I just really enjoy J K Rowling's writing. It was different here, obviously, because the target audience was different, but there were still many moments where it felt definitively her. In particular it had the sort of dry humour I've always liked in JKR's work -- lines like "'Stone dead,' said Howard, as though there were degrees of deadness, and the kind that Barry Fairbrother had contracted was particularly sordid."

I thought the cast of characters was pretty well populated. Most of the characters had bits where I was rooting for them and bits where I was angered by them, though I think Parminder was probably the best example of that kind of frustration. One thing her shifting POV allowed was that I would occasionally be quite unimpressed with a character from someone else's POV, but then be more sympathetic once I got into their head. (There were exceptions to this, obviously -- especially Gavin FUQ U GAVIN HOLY SHIT.) I think the teen POV might've been my favourite, although whether that's because they're closer to me in age or just because I'm predisposed to like how JKR writes teenagers, I don't know. Fats was a deplorable douchebag, but I found his POV entertaining/captivating/whatever, and his "authenticity" spiel reminded me of the kid from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man lmao. I felt bad for Andrew even if he was kind of gross in the way I imagine a lot of teen boys are gross. I was rooting hard for Krystal and couldn't help picturing her as Lauren Socha. I was at least glad that at the end of it things were looking up a bit for Sukhvinder.

As to the plot -- I mean, LOL @ so much of the plot revolving around hacking on a website. When it got to Fats posting about his dad I was just laughing, idek. I skimmed a bit of the Tumblr tag for this book (high quality literary crit right thurr) and mostly saw people complaining that "nothing happened" and that the book wasn't "about anything". I am not really sure what about the synopsis of a small-town Parish council election led people to believe HUGE DOINGS would be afoot, so "nothing happened" sort of makes me laugh. I dunno, man, Pagford actually seems quite dramatic for such a tiny town. I would say the book seemed to be pretty clearly "about" something as well -- I think Opal said the Daily Mail called it SOCIALIST TRIPE or something which LOLLLLLL, but yes. I would argue that both Sam and Shirley walking right past Robbie, alone, and doing fuck all because they're wrapped up in their own problems pretty clearly illustrates what the book was "about". But fine, Tumblr.

Anyway all in all it was not the best book in the history of English literature, but I quite enjoyed it and look forward to whatever else JKR comes out with. I will say I'm a bit glad to hear her next book is going to be for children, though.

Lastly, JKR I love you, but please stop writing out accents, ty.
ni l'un ni l'autre: TV - Once Upon A Timela_petite_singe on October 11th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
Fats was a deplorable douchebag, but I found his POV entertaining/captivating/whatever, and his "authenticity" spiel reminded me of the kid from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man lmao.

HA, I said The Fountainhead. ;) I couldn't forgive his treatment of Sukhvinder, but he was certainly very very interesting. I was thinking of Kelly as well for Krystal, but then I switched to Mia from Fish Tank because I adore that movie and that character is so powerful (and there are some parallels & whatnot). I personally loved the 'nothing happened'-ness aspect of it--like, HP is so huge and fantastic [literally] and such big things happen, whereas in this very small things happen, and yet they have huge personal impacts. I thought she did an awesome job of communicating emotional resonance on, like, a tiny scale, if that makes sense. (And "Socialist tripe" would only make me love it more, lbr.)
Kali: misfits :: a fucking rocket scientist_thirty2flavors on October 11th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah he was one of those sort of love-to-hate characters at least. JKR is generally pretty good at those.

I didn't connect Krystal with Kelly so much as with the character Lauren Socha played in "The Unloved", which was about children in the British foster system so I suppose that makes sense lol. It was a bit weird because as it turns out Lauren Socha is a terrible person, but my left-over loyalty to Kelly meant that picturing Krystal as Lauren increased my fondness for Krystal.

I think the small scale worked quite well in this book. It didn't need to have huge international ramifications. The character drama said enough, I thought. And I like character driven stories, and I tend to find JKR's characters interesting, so it was intriguing enough of a plot for me.
ibishtar: this is my The Casual Vacancy iconibishtar on October 11th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
Haven't read Portrait of an Artist, but it is one of the books on JKR's bookshelf in the photograph on the back of the British adult HP covers, so it possibly an influence.
While I managed to keep track of the multitude of characters, for the first 100 pages I did keep wondering when the JK Rowling Plot TM would kick in. When TCS was announced I thought JKR would basically apply her skills for plot, mystery and suspense to the adult world, but TCS turned out to be brilliant in a completely different way.
I agree with your assesment of JKR's characterisation and how people came off as more or less sympathetic depending on the viewpoint, which I thought was really well done. I also particularly enjoyed the bits with the teenagers. A lot of people who've read the book have said that (I'm also guilty of browsing the tumblr tag for reviews haha). She really does nail it, doesn't she?
I like JKR and I like stories about rebellious teenagers and class war, so this book went down well with me, although there were some bits in the middle where I had to stop reading because it was upsetting me so much. And then I finished and listened to the Riahanna song on a loop like the sap that I am.
Kali: misfits :: should've been a car crash_thirty2flavors on October 11th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
ORLY. I did not remember that. Maybe I'm onto her! lol

I agree actually, my idea of what this book would be like was way off. For some reason I'd gotten to thinking it was a murder mystery? LOLLL. But yes, I was looking forward to that because I think JKR is quite good at plotting and foreshadowing and all that stuff. But I liked what we got in the end -- I like character driven stories and I think JKR is good at making interesting characters with interesting motivations, so I ended up quite invested.
ibishtar: Harry Potteribishtar on October 11th, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I once dedicated myself to trying to figure out the books on JKR's shelf from this hi-res picture in this journal entry of mine.
The reason you thought it was a murder mystery is because Ian Rankin wondered whether it would be on his twitter and it became fact by fandom osmosis. Yeah, same, I ended up liking it, but it's not for everyone. It's pretty harrowing stuff.
sherrilina: Arthur/Chicken (Merlin)sherrilina on October 11th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
Lol, it's not a murder mystery? I thought it would be from the description too!
Lizbazcat89 on October 11th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
I am still trying to figure out how I feel about Mary Fairbrother. And Sam.

Whatever tumblr can bitch. JKR is a boss at writing complex, ambiguous characters.
Kali: act :: hrh catherine tate_thirty2flavors on October 11th, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
I liked Sam. She was morally dubious but I sympathized with her I guess, I found her among the more likable adults anyway. I felt bad she couldn't go to the not-One Direction concert, lmao. I also had a more vivid mental image of her than almost anyone. Also I think of the middleclassers she's the one who might actually have learnt something, since she wanted to join the Council and protect Bellchapel.

I paid very little attention to Mary Fairbrother tbh, and in the end I don't really hold anything against her because she is a widow and she is grieving and, y'know, whatevs.
Liz: Office: Pam :Dbazcat89 on October 11th, 2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
Yeah I think I really liked her. She was such a complex, believable character. And I liked how she would invite people over just to troll them (lol puck you Gavin). And oh my god when she didn't get to go to the concert I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I also liked the part when she was honest about her daughter sounding like Shirley. Fucking Shirley.

Yeah that's true. And like, I respect her grief but I kind of side-eyed her negativity towards a teenage girl but....I get it.

Edited at 2012-10-11 10:37 pm (UTC)
Kali: dw :: martha :: i'm coming back_thirty2flavors on October 12th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
LOL her trolling Gavin and Shirley was gr8. Yeah I thought Sam was interesting and I felt bad for her and her situation. HER IN-LAWS WERE SO EFFING ANNOYING OMG. Poor Sam not getting to see One Direction, lol.

I spent the whole book wondering when/if she was going to introduce a gay character, so I wish we'd gotten to see Pat earlier. However I appreciated the role she did kind of play, emphasizing even more the really ignorant, narrow-minded attitudes of her family/Pagford in general, and how she was obviously like "FUCK THIS NOISE".
Liz: Office: Pam is just so damn cutebazcat89 on October 12th, 2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Shirley must be the worst mother in law ever. But really the Mollison family dynamics are so interesting. I knew Pat was going to be good when she was first mentioned so YES I AM GLAD I WAS NOT WRONG. Ugh "Patricia and Guest" fuck you Shirley.

Team Maureen.
sherrilina: Arthur/Chicken (Merlin)sherrilina on October 11th, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
I am not really sure what about the synopsis of a small-town Parish council election led people to believe HUGE DOINGS would be afoot,

Lmao! Yeah that description is why I haven't really felt interested in reading it yet, I mean it's not like there was false advertising for this book...good to hear it was decent and interesting enough, however!
Kali: dw :: ten :: i love that coat_thirty2flavors on October 12th, 2012 12:02 am (UTC)
It's definitely a pretty small-scale story -- it is ostensibly about the election, but really it's about this group of people in the town and how all their lives are intertwined; most of the action just gets kickstarted by the "casual vacancy" and subsequent election for council.

It definitely has bigger themes -- the most obvious and important one is classism but there's also addiction, abuse, etc -- and I would say in that sense it has implications about wider society, but it all takes place on a small scale in a small town and people who seemed to expect some kind of action-driven plot with like... idk, international conspiracy or explosions are going to be disappointed.
mildlyconfusedmildlyconfused on October 12th, 2012 03:07 am (UTC)
The people claiming it wasn't about anything need to re-examine their priorities. And, in all likelyhood, git themsleves some life experience (a request that is mostly unrelated to biological age. At times, pleasantly so. Overwhelmingly, disappointingly so.)

Also, was I the only one who felt punched in the everything by

"But who could bear to know which stars were already dead?[…} Could anybody stand to know they all were? "

ALSO, since this is the greatest thing I have yet seen rolled out of tumblr with regards to Casual Vacancy:


As you were.
robbinsismael on September 25th, 2013 05:25 am (UTC)
diveryorkshirediveryorkshire on October 10th, 2013 03:32 am (UTC)
Thats breathtaking...
coveykitscoveykits on April 5th, 2014 04:31 am (UTC)
doleritecheepdoleritecheep on August 18th, 2015 11:18 am (UTC)