The quaint fairy tale village of Castle Combe at the border between the Cotswolds and Wiltshire with its characteristic bridge. This is what Pagford looks like. Photo 33816322 / Cotswolds © Pljvv | Dreamstime.com

A CASUAL VACANCY by J. K. Rowling is the story of a bitter class struggle between the smug, wealthy inhabitants of Pagford, and their much poorer neighbors who inhabit the council flats called “The Fields”.

Park Hill estate in Sheffield, Yorkshire UK completed in 1961, and now half-abandoned. This gives you an idea of what “The Fields” council flats look like. Photo by Paolo Margari from independent.co.uk.

When kindly counsel member Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, someone has to be found to fill that vacant seat. The good people of pretty Pagford would rather not have to deal with all the problems created by poverty and would love to redraw the boundaries so that the inhabitants of “The Fields” now live in nearby (and poorer) Yarvil. And so the plot of the novel turns on whether the people of Pagford will be able to fill that seat with someone who will do their bidding, or not.

This book is not particularly easy to read. It is written in omniscient third with 18 point-of-view characters. Personally, I thought that Rowling did a wonderful job in telling this story, and I was not bored or confused as some readers were. But potential readers should be warned that most of the characters in this book are just plain mean and there is plenty of betrayal, infighting and heartbreak. However, if you stick with this story, you will find a rewarding, thought-provoking read. Four stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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