JK Rowling continues to tell stories that are interesting, well written, funny and rewarding to read.
This story opens with the death of Barry Fairbrother, “a man of generous spirit”. He is a family man living in the small insular town of Pagford in rural England. Barry’s death resulted in a “casual vacancy’ on the town council. There is a polarization between the forces that want to close a drug clinic and cut loose a poor section of town, the Fields and those citizens who see some obligation to support those who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum. Seems like a good v. evil plot but not so fast.
The local shopkeeper, Howard Mollison is the chairman of the council and is focused on closing the drug clinic and redrawing the town lines to exclude the lower income residents. I could not get the Durnsleys’ (Harry Potter’s step parents) out of my mind when reading about Mollison and his wife Shirley. The forces on the other side of the issue are led by an Indian physician Dr. Jawanda and Colin Wall a local teacher. There are way too many characters in this story to describe here but the ones who most came to life for me were the teenagers. Maybe because they were not as jaded as most of the adults in this story. Defamatory posts written by ‘the ghost of Barry Fairbrother’ start to appear on the council website and the election heats up.
The election and the machinations of the locals are essentially the whole plot. This is not a plot driven novel but more an immersive experience in the characters and setting of the story. The author, JK Rowling, has a well deserved reputation for writing richly imagined and wonderfully peopled stories. She delivers here. Pagford comes to life in this story. Everyone knows everyone else and the claustrophobic feel of a small town is well described. There are no heroes in this story, in fact most of the characters are flawed and in some cases downright evil. There are humorous episodes and the humor is of the dry British variety. There is some melodrama in the end but it might have been the only way to end this sad story. I liked this book even though it cast of Muggles was singularly uninspiring and occasionally depressing. JK Rowling continues to tell stories that are interesting, well written, funny and rewarding to read.
I read a copy of this book borrowed from the Free Library of Philadelphia