The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling


"The Casual Vacancy = Mind Blowing" - one of the Goodreads reviewers said, and I agree.

I must confess I did not read any of the other J.K.Rowling books, nor watched the movies, for various reasons, the most important being that magic/fantasy isn't a genre I am interested in. Never was, really, not even as a preschooler! In fact, I learnt my first lesson of adult betrayal in life when they tried to convince me of the existence of fairies and gnomes! I was about three years old. Since then I never trusted these adults!

So on that note, it did not matter to me that the same author of the Harry Potter world phenomenon wrote this book, which is such a surprising departure from her previous theme. 

It could have been anyone else and I would still have felt the same awe after finishing it. I will never forget Krystal and what happened to her(and an entire town for that matter), when Barry Fairbrother, her unofficial guardian angel, departs. Originating from 'The Fields' himself, Barry was streetwise enough to bring balance to a town filled with imperfect lovable/despisable characters and to be the town's conscious in the Pagford Parish Council. 

The rest of the characters made a profound impact as well, but that innocent, misunderstood, deeply scarred young girl, with her brother Robbie, ripped my heart out. 

The book starts out with Barry Fairbrother's death. But to me, the whole unraveling of a town's soul begins with his funeral service:

"P. 159: "The coffin itself was not made of polished mahogany, but of wickerwork.

It's a bloody picnic basket! though Howard,outraged.

Looks of surprise fitted across many faces as the willow box passed them...

Parminder liked the willow coffin better, much better, than the stout wooden box in which most English disposed of their dead. Her grandmother had always had a superstitious fear of the soul being trapped inside something heavy and solid, deploring the way that British undertakers nailed down the lids. "

P.163: "We are going to finish today's service with a song chosen by Barry's daughters, Niamh and Siobhan, which meant a lot to them and their father' said the vicar. He managed, by his tone, to dissociate himself personally from what was about to happen.

The beat of the drum rang so loudly through hidden speakers that the congregation jumped......" 
Barry's soul promised to escape for sure and roam the town, turning it upside down and upright again. Yes, shortly after the funeral 'The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother' began its descend onto Pagford...! A lot of skeletons started rattling in the closets!

The book ends in the same church, same vicar, same rap song, same attendants, different departing bodies. But this time, at the very end of the service, the vicar,as he announced it, sounded resigned.( P.503)

I cannot remember when was the last time a book made such a profound impression on me. The characters are firmly cemented in our reality.The most important is that every reader will recognize him/herself in that book. The irony is that although we recognize ourselves, we will despise ourselves in action!

And meet a community(ourselves) in all its(our) hypocritical splendor: the love, hurt, uncertainties, lies, deceit, abuse, unfaithfulness, real and forged friendships, pretense, kindness, the social- mental- psychological wars.....

Brilliant book! A new genre for J.K.Rowling, but she is a master at it!