Skip to main content

Book 41 of 52: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The parade of Collingswood Book Festival titles continues!

The Casual Vacancyby J.K. Rowling was the most expensive of the batch - it cost me a whopping $5. That's a lot more than most vendors were charging for used hardcovers, and the guy tried to hard sell me on it by saying it's a first edition (yes, a first edition Harry Potter might be worth something, but this? Eh). But since I so loved the Harry Potter books, I figured Rowling was worth a fiver.

The Casual Vacancy looks at what happens to a community after one person dies, though Barry Fairbrother's death doesn't cause the problems in Pageford Parish. It sets forth a series of events that take place revolving around who will take Fairbrother's seat on the parish council (because he died, his seat being open is called a "casual vacancy")

That's because Fairbrother had been on the side of council that didn't want to relinquish control of a poorer part of town. The other side thought that section, called the Fields, didn't belong in good ol' Pageford, and never should have been put under their control in the first place. Fairbrother also advocated keeping open an addiction clinic where other members of council wanted to see it closed.

Even though The Casual Vacancy is set in England, its themes are very in tune with what's going on in the U.S., given that just Friday, food stamp benefits were cut for 47 million Americans. The council members in Pageford who want to give up the Fields say a lot of the same things as politicians say about people who receive food stamps: that they caused these problems on their own, if they wanted to, they could get out of poverty and stop sucking off the government teat (even though a lot of food stamp recipients do work but still can't afford to feed their families on minimum wage). The Casual Vacancy goes deeper into the issues of poverty and gives the backstory behind people who are written of by Pageford residents (the heroin-addicted single mother; the trashy teenager who sleeps around) and shows why a lot of people are trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence. These kids were born down. They never really had a chance. A lot of these characters come out looking despicable. I didn't like many of them.

These issues are timely, but I wasn't in love with the book. If the author hadn't been Rowling, I might have DNFed it. There's a lot of people in this novel, and I still confused some of them more than half way through. That's, in part, because you hear inside the head of different characters within the same chapter. The revolving narrator can work very well, but not when it jumps from person to person within paragraphs of each other. The book improved as it went along, but I'm still labeling this an okay read.

Two months and 11 books to go! That's more than one book per week. Can I make it? I think so.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Welcome Back to Book a Week with Jen!

Hello hello! Yes, the rumors (that I started) are true. On New Year's Day, I fired up the old Book a Week with Jen blog, gave it a new domain, and I'm going to be writing about my reading habits once again. If you don't know me, my name is Jen A. Miller , and I'm a freelance writer and author. I've been freelancing now for 17 years, and in that time, have written hundreds of articles, three books ( two about the Jersey Shore and one about running ), and two ebooks ( both about freelance writing ). If you're not new around here, wow a lot has changed. I wrote a memoir , picked up a regular running column for the New York Times , and put that back down again. I ran a lot of marathons, and got into ultra marathoning, which lead me to run my first 24 hour race on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day 2020/2021 . My first dog, Emily, died in 2017 . I sold my first home, lived out of my car for a year traveling the country , scooped up a scruffy cattle dog mix in Ida

Book 5 of 52: Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

I don't always try to match my reading to what I'm doing, but when I go to Florida, I try to pack at least one Florida weird book. There was no better novel to bring with me to read on a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park , than Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather . Hiaasen was writing about #floridaman before #floridaman was a thing (and when this - # - was the pound sign).  Stormy Weather is set in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is still the most destructive hurricane to have ever hit Florida, and only one of four hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. still at Category 5 strength. According to the Miami Herald , Hurricane Andrew destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged another 101,241. Such disasters bring out the best in humanity but also the worst. F raud flowed into South Florida in Andrew's wake . That's where  Stormy Weather comes in. From an advertising executive who yanks his new wife away from their Walt Disney World honeymoon to r

Book 11 of 52: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

In my travels, I've accumulated photos in what I call the "Plants Where They Shouldn't Be" series. They're of weeds, flowers and trees growing in places that look uncomfortable: poking out of lava that's OK to walk on but warm enough to generate steam, growing around a mile marker on the road, sprouting on the back of a parking sign - that kind of thing. On the cheesy side, they're reminders that we can flourish in the most unlikely circumstances. On a more realistic end, they show that humans are constantly battling back nature, and that someday we'll probably lose the fight. I thought about those photos when I read  book 8 of 52 Station Eleven  (and watched  the HBO Max adaptation ), which show a world without 99.99 percent of our current human population. The story focuses on people, of course, but set them in a world where the things humans have created - electricity, internet, buildings, bridges, roads - are being taken back by nature. A Jersey Sh