This isn’t a review site but sometimes a book comes along that I want to shine a little light on. Of course, this one doesn’t need my tiny torch – it has the benefit of the Great Big Shiny Spotlight Of That Name:
It needed the name because I don’t think anyone else could have got this book published.
And it deserved to be published.
For the first quarter of the book I kept thinking, these characters are all hateful, not one of them has a redeeming feature, there’s so many of them I can’t keep track of who’s who – it’s like being stuck behind the curtains in Privett Drive only with out the magic, it’s dull and petty and…and…and… I might even have given up if my book group hadn’t selected it as our next project. I ploughed on and slowly, the ugly natives of Pagford burrowed under my skin like scabies until I couldn’t wait to pick the book up, to scratch at the sore like Howard Mollinson scratched at his giant belly, sinking into the horror and misery, clutching at the glimmers of love and hope.
It’s a mosaic of flawed lives. It is both difficult to read and compulsive. This book hurts. It’s Dylan Thomas meets Eastenders. It’s a classic in the mould of Dickens and Hardy. We aren’t told what to think – the poor aren’t seen as any worthier than the wealthy, the social worker and the nurse are almost brutally neglectful of their own families – everyone is far from perfect and they are exposed with a cut throat honesty so that you can not help examining yourself in the light of their failings – and their victories.
I don’t quite understand why it was called ‘A Casual Vacancy’ and not ‘The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother’. Barry haunts every page, every life – maybe that’s why, it was too supernatural a title for such a shockingly alive testament. JK? I’d love to know…
Whatever it’s called, I sobbed through the last ten pages, tears are bubbling in my throat as I type, this book has a magic all of its own.