Monday, October 22, 2012

No casual read - The Casual Vacancy

So there was this curiosity when I heard that JK Rowling had written another novel. Which grew when she mentioned that this was definitely not a novel for kids. And then as luck would have it, the husband happened to be in Justbooks when they received their set of The Casual Vacancy. Spanking new! So it came home and of course the husband registered his prior claim on it.
And then, I forgot that it was there at home!!! And just remembered the last week.

Its a long read.
In the beginning it rambles a bit, and you tend to go back pages wondering who was who, for there seems to be no connection whatsoever between some of the characters.  But as you progress, the tenuous connections become clearer, among people who are as different from one another as chalk from cheese; and incidents become more and more inextricably linked. Like how in Harry Potter, subsequent books throw more light on the who's and why's, in The Casual Vacancy, each chapter throws more light, or rather, more darkness on happenings in the Parish.

The book is a stark comparison between the haves (Pagford) and the have-nots (The Fields ) . It tells of people who want to make a change to the status quo and those who are determined to let it be.  Of parents and their so imperfect relationships with their kids.  Of flawed relationships and neglected responsibilities. Of the utter hopelessness of a junkie's life. (Makes you wonder if some of that was a bit autobiographical)....

Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother is a man committed to bettering the lives of the less fortunate in his community. With his sudden death, things seem hopeless for The Fields and its citizens. The Pagford crowd seem likely to get their community 'unsullied' by the junkies and thieves and riff-raff of the Fields.  But then, Barry seems to come back from the dead. As the election towards the vacancy created by his death looms closer,  his 'ghost' sets ripples in motion, which go on to become dark undercurrents in the Parish.
Secrets get leaked.
About Simon- one of the persons standing for elections- stealing a computer (among other things) from office and being unfit for elections.
About Parminder-the doctor- actually being in love with Barry, which was probably why she supported him in his efforts to keep the drug de-addiction clinic going,
About Cubby, the headmaster of the local school being a possible child molestor.

To me however, the book is about Krystal, ....  The teenaged daughter of a junkie, in whom Barry sees potential and whom he sets out to redeem. Who is amazingly resilient, and who, determined to rise above the filth in her life, responds slowly but surely, to the confidence shown in her abilities. Who in the face of heartbreaking neglect by her junkie mother, strives to give her little 3 yr old  brother as much of a home as she can. She tugs at your heart at how, with so less, she tries to make so much more of her life.
It is amazing how one drug addiction clinic can affect so many people, in so many utterly different ways. If Barry Fairbrother is at the heart of the novel, Krystal Weedon is the soul of it.

The book reminded me of Agatha Christie's the Moving Finger, in how a small sleepy village held so much of  the passions in the world. And how inspite of having nothing to do with one another, all of their lives were so interlinked. But the difference is that in this one, there is no murder. There could almost have been, except that at the last minute another tragedy interrrupts.

Like I said- while in the beginning, it fails to hook you, towards the middle, you start getting intrigued and later, you want to know how it is all going to turn out. What will happen to Krystal? Is there redemption for her? Who eventually takes Barry's place? Will Bellchapel (the drug addition clinic) get relocated? What about Sukhwinder(Sooks)? Does the tenuous friendship between her and Krystal survive the malicious rumour that Krystal's grandmother dies owing to the wrong drug being prescribed by Sooks' mom Parminder?

All of their lives are so interconnected and you can only marvel once again that Rowling has managed to think everything out with such precision and attention to detail. Her amazing characterisation. Its not a book you would read again and again, like the Potter series, - its too dark for that. But it does have its moments.
And it ultimately makes you reflect about how in our selfish preoccupation with our lives, not many of us realise what a difference each one of us can make. How a little help given at the correct time can make such a difference to so many lives.
Certainly not a book for kids, very much a book for adults, definitely worth a read.  Go for it, people!

1 comment:

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