books · PGY-3

Book #1: The Casual Vacancy

Oh my god, you guys. This book? Is good.Casual Vacancy, Wikimedia

Ignore the Amazon reviews. They are written by people who expected another Harry Potter book with TEH MAGICKS and were shocked / upset / generally kerfuffled that JK Rowling is not a one-trick pony.

(I liked the Harry Potter books a lot. But what was great about them was they were children’s lit written like adult lit, no punches pulled, no saccharine sentimentality. And what’s great about The Casual Vacancy is that it’s just … adult lit written like adult lit.)

The plot is straightforward: local council member dies abruptly, by-election is held to replace his seat. But the real strength of the novel is in the characters, drawn sharply and with an excellent eye. It reminds me in that way of Austen or even more of Middlemarch, but if Dorothea Brooke had a blog.

Perhaps it’s because I live in a relatively small city with similar class distinctions as fictional Pagford, but the characters, even the less likeable ones, were very real. Everyone knows a meddling Shirley, and middle-aged Samantha’s crush on a young musician is so common as to be almost a cliche. The teen characters are definitely the most well-rounded here and the most sympathetic, especially Krystal. Krystal’s heartbreaking. I can’t tell you why; just read.

Yes, it’s tragic and dark and the last few pages are like watching a slow inevitable explosion and you finish it in the middle of the night because you stayed up far too late and you just have to stare up at the ceiling. It’s a book with an impact even bigger than its tome-like size.

Apparently the BBC just did an adaptation starring Keeley Hawes, Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, which aired last month in the UK and will air here on the 12th of Never, because Masterpiece Bloody Theater would rather air their fifth Downton Abbey marathon than some new programming.  So if you are lucky enough to live in places where BBC player works, tell me, was it any good? Worth tracking down in the usual nefarious places on the internet, or give it a miss?

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