‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling

Some books just fall in your arms, some you stumble upon them. This one, I definitely looked for it.

I was new in town, but I had already found the center of my universe: the Waterstones Bookshop.

That’s where, at the end of August, I noticed the first announcement: “Book your copy of the new book by J.K. Rowling, ‘The Casual Vacancy’. Out on 27th September.”

It had to be mine. So it was.

After a month, ‘First edition world wide coverThe Casual Vacancy’ was finally in my hands.

A big red and golden book that made me take a look into the private life of this little idyllic town of Pagford, left in shock by the sudden death of Barry Fairbrother, beloved husband and father as well as member of the Parish Council.

I carried this heavy first edition with me everywhere I went, even if it was taking a lot of space in my rucksack and definitely all the room in my bag.

I loved reading this book from the first to the last sentence, sitting on the train to London and then in St. James Park, where I sat surrounded by squirrels; lying on the sofa while enjoying a cup of tea or sitting on the floor in my room, with the rain pouring down outside the window.

After a few days I became familiar with the characters: some of them gave me something to think about, a piece of them to keep with me; some other just passed by – but that’s part of the game, too.

There are Howard and Shirley Mollison, who strive to get their son Miles to win the empty seat at the Parish Council; always busy in controlling everyone else’s life, glorifying their son and digging their daughter-in-law Samantha.

And Samantha, trapped in a life she can’t stand, looking for some excitement in the hot guy from a boy-band. She senses it’s too late for a great escape from a failed marriage, but still can’t find new interest in her husband, too busy with his job and the upcoming elections.

There’s Andrew Price, teenager constantly at war with his father Simon and secretly in love with Gaia – so secretly he doesn’t even tell his best friend Fats Wall. So sweet when he tries to get her attention, dizzy with that foolish love that makes you struggle for a smile, a wave or just a glance.

Gaia’s mother, Kay, is a social worker. She moved to Pagford from London following her boyfriend Gavin, not realizing how little he is actually interested in her – fallen in a relationship without happy ending on sight.

Eventually, Kay works for a while with the Weedon’s family. Terri, the mother, is a heroin-addicted and a prostitute, constantly trying drug treatment in the local clinic,  while the daughter Krystal is the only one who can roughly take care of her little brother Robbie.

Krystal was particularly dear to Barry Fairbrother, who insisted to include her in the rowing team. And there, no matter how things are for real in her life, she cheered everyone up singing the rap beginning of a Rihanna’s song: “Good girl gone bad…take three…action…no clouds in my storms…let it rain, I hydroplane into fame…comin’ down with the Dow Jones…”

In the rowing team was also Sukhvinder, suicidal depressive and victim of a mother who doesn’t believe any good about her. There’s a great hole in her life, where love and self-esteem are missing. Thus she longs for physical pain, to soothe the humiliation of everyday life.

Both Krystal and Sukhvinder are related to Fats Wall, even if in very different ways: Krystal is one of the few to catch Fats’ interest – in a positive way – while the Sukhvinder is his favorite target of daily harassment.

Adopted child, Fats lives with his step-mother Tessa and his step-father Colin “Cubby” Wall. He can’t stand any of them, Cubby in particular, who’s deputy headteacher at the local comprehensive.

What about Cubby? He’s probably the one who frightened me the most: he suffers from OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He’s the one who claims to be Barry’s closest friend, but failing to distinguish between reality and fantasy, at some point even wondering if it was him who killed Barry Fairbrother in the first place.

His paranoia branches out and traps his thought, his memories and his fears, until he cannot make the difference between what he did, what he wanted to do and what he fears to have done. So he lives everyday in the very prison he built for himself and from which he cannot escape.

As I turned the last page, a warm old feeling pervaded me: the time has come to let it go, move on to something else. Sadly I have to say goodbye to these friends who shared with me their lives, for a while.

I almost miss the old times, when J.K. Rowling was still writing Harry Potter and after one book, I just had to jump to the next one…

Not this time. The book is finished, literally. I close it and recall the song in my mind…

…good girl gone bad…take three…action…no clouds in my storms…let it rain, I hydroplane into fame…comin’ down with the Dow Jones…


If you want to know more about this book: Goodreads

If you want to buy this book: Amazon



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