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It all starts when a man named Barry Fairbrother dies outside an upper-class golf club in the seemingly idyllic English township of Pagfoot. At first his family and friends are devastated.The rowing team mourns the loss of their coach, and the town loses a vibrant and bubbly personality whose sole intention was to better the Fields, a ramshackle drug-addled housing estate in the nearby city of Yarvil.
However, it becomes increasingly evident that Barry’s death is more than an inconvenience, as the parish council is left with a casual vacancy – that is, the absence of a local councillor. It seems an easy problem to remedy, but as time passes, new contenders step up, old contenders back down, and an all-out war erupts over petty politics, personal opinion, and private and public affairs. It appears that anyone will do just about anything to be elected and stop others from announcing and withdrawing their candidacy. Relationships turn sour, friends become enemies, and acquaintances become little more than faces in the crowd.
While the adults wage war with one another, the children intervene, spreading scandalous but true accusations on the internet under the guise of ‘the ghost of Barry Fairbrother’. All of this occurs behind closed doors, where people will stop at nothing to elevate their status and rid the town of the lower class, run-down inhabitants of the Fields.
The Casual Vacancy is a satisfying read, poignant and rich with antagonistic people in a very real, very busy, lifelike world. Peppered with social messages about the differences in class, the way society views those in the lower echelon in society, and how a community ostracises certain members whose only crime was being born into an unlikable or social inept family, the story is a funny, heartfelt, tender, and at times a depressing black comedy, but it is a story that is nonetheless indicative of real life clashing personalities and personal gain.
Who will win the seat of Pagfoot? Read ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling to find out!