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The Casual Vacancy, a play-by-play review, part five.

This book is so exhausting to read. You may be wondering why I’ve been marathoning these reviews, and mostly, it’s because I want it over with before writing about other snappy, sassy things that I feel. I know that if I put this book down, I’ll have so much trouble picking it back up. Congratulations, you guys, you’ve made it to the last section with me. Thanks! I appreciate the support and hope that these haven’t been letting you down, even if the book kind of is letting me down. Warning, there will be spoilers and snark. Take heed.

The Casual Vacancy, part seven, “Part Six.”

Pg470: Looks like the boys secret code was nullified when Fats’ negligence aided in killing a three year-old.

Pg473: Sukhvinder’s parents are now paying attention to her and know about her self-mutilation. Who knew it’d only take her jumping into a dirty ass river to try and save a child while mangling her leg to get it to happen. Also, Howard did have a heart attack, but is safely in the hospital as well.

Pg477: Note to self, don’t make Tessa angry. That was one mother-son talk that felt extremely realistic and, for once, I think Fats might have listened.

Pg479: Gaia the bitch is back! Kind of an inopportune moment, huh.

Pg481: So, Krystal just killed herself. I wish I cared more. It’s sad, but at this point in the game it’s just like…well, okay. Another notch in the “Pagford is fucked up” belt.

Author’s note: I’m just going to finish up the book and end this part with a giant summary of my overall feelings.

The Casual Vacancy, part eight, “Part Seven.” THE END IS NEAR.

Pg485: Howard is still in the hospital, recovery has not been easy or kind. Don’t worry, though. Shirley is still a monster, blaming Parminder for the state of Howard when she was, you know, with her own daughter in the hospital and it was Howard that had her medical license banned. But, yeah, definitely and totally her fault. Obviously. Fats is taking the blame for all of the viral slander, which is…er…commendable? I’m not even sure how I feel about that.

Pg490: Kay and Gaia are moving back to London. Andrew, Simon and Ruth are moving to Reading. We’re also finding out that Fats once fed Andrew a peanut inside a marshmallow to see what it’d do to him and Krystal was the only one who knew to get help before he, you know, died on the playground. Her heart was really in the right place, she just unfortunately did everything else wrong.

Pg492: Well, Miles and Samantha are a happily—well, maybe tenuously happy—married couple again. Hey, she’s even sober!

Pg495: Belly shirts are ace attire for a funeral. Don’t forget the belly ring!

Pg503: The best part of this whole fucking book was and is Sukhvinder.

————

I finished this book yesterday, but thought that I would give myself a day to fully digest what in the fuck I just read. I started this book really wanting to love every single page. I wanted to love every character, every plot development, and actually went in pretty blind. I avoided reviews and just skimmed over the summary of what it was about. I kept an open mind and really, really, honest and truly, wanted to love it. Let’s skip that for now.

We followed the Tolstoyesque web of characters through their tragic lives and watched as their secrets were exposed after the death of a prominent town official, and by the end of the first part, you are desperately wishing for a flowchart to keep track of the melodramatic action. Sex! Forced sex! Dreamed sex! Marijuana! Heroin! Conjecture of murder! Attempted murder! Molestation! Self-mutilation! Physical abuse! Mental abuse! All of these are a part of the intricate web of The Casual Vacancy, but while reading it, you might as well be reading about someone who is feeding ducks at a pond with stale Subway bread. It’s that engaging. It’s like reading in shades of grey, and no, I’m not talking about mild bondage, but about the dull as freakin’ dishwater color. You realize, midway through the novel, that you should be emoting more, that you should be invested into these characters that you despise so much—because if there is one thing that we know J.K. Rowling can do, it’s create characters that you want to care about—but you just can’t bring yourself to do it.

With one exception (I’m going to forever fly the flag of Sukhvinder, and while I also enjoy the absurd antics of Samantha, that is more like watching an episode of a Vh1 reality show—that is, a trainwreck—than actually caring about her), everyone in this novel has some aspect to hate about them, something that you find so goddamned irritating, that you really don’t care how they ruin their lives next. You find yourself rolling your eyes at plot developments or at the internal monologue of the characters, as well as knowing what is going to happen to them by the end of the novel….even within the first 200 pages. It’s one thing to accurately guess how something is going to go down 50 pages before it happens, it’s a letdown when it is 150+ pages before it happens. It’s a painful process, reading about the tantrums, fits and problems of these characters, while knowing their ultimate fate. It causes the series to drag, for the pages to last forever.

It is descriptively wonderful. J.K. Rowling paints such realistic portraits of internal and external turmoil that you don’t doubt for a second that it is possible. My problem with this book is the same problem that I had with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If you hate the characters, and you are inhuman if you don’t hate half of the assholes in The Casual Vacancy, it’s really hard to care about their political position, their addictions, their grief, or their pervy masturbatory thoughts.

I laughed when I was supposed to laugh, but considering this is under the genre tragicomedy, there should have been a lot more humor than there was. Schadenfreude based humor was heavy in this book, which I appreciated as a German major, but those lines where you chuckled to yourself were few and far between. In between them? Droll, annoying, mostly first world, problems, that I couldn’t care less about. Sure, the characters were really human and really realistic in their multifaceted lives, but at the end of the day, you really don’t give a shit about the small-town society that they’ve created. Why is this? I don’t know. The beautifully colorful worlds that she creates became so diluted with the horrible actions and lives of people that you know won’t improve or change your mind. Maybe the baseline plot was the problem, maybe my expectations were too high—admittedly, they were. I can’t pinpoint where it went wrong, yet somewhere in the little town of Pagford, something really did.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no. I wouldn’t say that I totally hated it, because there were aspects of enjoyment, however, a lot of it drags on, guts and depresses you. Know what? You guys should be the judge of whether you want to read it or not. If there is the urge, try it out. If you don’t have the loyalty for J.K. Rowling from the Harry Potter series, go ahead and pick up something else. Now, if you would excuse me, I have some month old comforting texts from the BF that I need to reread to get through the rest of my day.

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