Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Casual Vacancy; A Review

Rowling Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday evening, January 23, 2013.

I just put down JKR's "The Casual Vacancy" (a requested Christmas gift)  not  5 minutes ago, after wiping tears from my eyes.  The last chapter killed me.  This book was such a weird read for me.  People were either liking this book or hating this book.  I took notes along the way, to remind me of little things that got me or things I disliked.

I need to preface this review for a sec with some background on me.  I am an Anglophile.  A Puerto Rican Anglophile, which fills my Scottish co-worker with laughter and praise.  He recently told me "Are you sure you're Puerto Rican?  No offense, but you'd fit right in in London."

Not that I put on phony accents and such (except when I want to embarrass the kids), but I enjoy British t.v., movies and novels.  I understand some (not all) of the slang and euphemisms and am usually the translator at work from British-English to Puerto-Rican English   (my co-workers are 3 Puerto Ricans, 1 Cuban and a Scotsman and no one can understand each other's English; it's hilarious really.) 

I'm saying this so you can understand why, although the book was slow and weird, I enjoyed reading it.  I enjoyed the slang, the attitudes, the tea, the smugness.  I enjoyed vacillating between hating and loving each of the characters, depending on the chapter.

JK Rowling can write.  The woman can write like a fiend.  She's brilliant.

If you're expecting Harry Potter loveliness, you've got the wrong book, mates.  If you don't like rude language, and sometimes it was a little much, this is not for you.  If you do not appreciate slow books with minutiae of every-day life, put it down.  I love slow books.   Let me rephrase it.  I love slow, good books.  They're not in a rush.  You take your time. It's about the details.

The book deals with a snap-shot in time of a group of residents in the small town of Pagford.  Beautiful, quaint Pagford.  The pride of many a resident.

We meet the rich residents, the down-and-out drug addicted residents in The Fields (the government housing area), the doctors, social workers, bored housewives, the man who can't make up his mind or commit, the man afraid of everything,  angsty and mean teens,  that all revolve around one man, Barry, whose death is the catalyst for the action.  We meet Barry for one chapter, but his life rippled across all of their lives.  He was a council member and his seat is open now.  We see the machinations and scheming of the council members' lives as they try to sway the  vote for or against rezoning The Fields to a neighboring town who shares the land but none of the upkeep or problems of the drug-riddled area.

There are so many characters that at first I was flipping back and forth to remember who they were.  Eventually, though, I got the hang of it.

I wanted so much for Simon Price's wife Ruth to get a backbone.  I cringed at Simon's beatings of her and her sons.  The verbal and physical abuse was painful to read.  I felt both sad for his sons Andrew and Paul, whom he called Pizza Face or Pansy respectively and beat the heck out of them, and then angry at Andrew for his mean thoughts about his mom who could not defend them.

I hated the bored wife who took pleasure in making people uncomfortable with her meanness because she was bored, and laughed when she ridiculously harbored a secret crush on a boy-band member and ended up kissing a local teen in her usual drunken state.  Stupid cow.

The love of gossip in this small town was crazy.  I thought a few times "Really?  Who acts like this?"

I saw the taunting, teasing, fighting, verbal abuse, downright evilness at the high school or around the teens and really did not fully understand.  Never having been the victim of that kind of hurt, nor my son during his high school years, those kinds of abuses seemed alien to me, but I know they exist out there.

To the city-folk out there, these little political problems might seem ridiculous, but only because we don't have the small-town mentality.

Seeing Krystal, the poor trashy girl from The Fields, struggle to live up to what Barry thought she could be, struggle with the loss of the one person on her side, struggle with a drug-addicted mother and trying to take care of her half-brother so he won't get taken away from them was heart-breaking, but at the same time, I was disgusted by her surroundings, her language and attitude.

JK's writing of Parminder and her daughter Sukhvinder was just a beautiful mix of emotions and raw, open nerves. She wrote these two so well.  I wanted Parminder to relax and let go.  Breathe.   I wanted love, peace, acceptance for Sukhvinder.

The last page, with Rhianna's song, tore me up.  "Umbrella" is used on the book several time, with special meanings in 2 funerals.  Opening with it was ok, but closing with it, once you know what it means, just sealed it.  It had me in tears.

It was a weird read.  It was a slow read.  It was a good read.

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