The Casual Vacancy succeeded in prompting an action very rare for me – I actually gave up at page 237.
The subject matter, life in and around the parish council, could so easily have lent itself to a roaring tale of gossip, intrigue and humour.
Instead, this book starts with a death and gets progressively more miserable.
There’s the weeping widow, of whom we hear little of substance.
She’s possibly the most sympathetic character in a tale otherwise peopled by boorish adults and grim teenagers.
The central argument revolves around whether the large, and seemingly deeply unpleasant, local council housing estate should be administered by the parish council or its neighbouring district counterpart.
I’m not sure if Rowling was aiming for biting social commentary in her allotment to the estate residents of rough accents and all manner of social ills from drug addiction to truancy and casual promiscuity.
If so, perhaps I missed the point. To me it just seemed like typical social stereotyping with little redemption in sight - though I’d like to think Rowling is brighter than that..
The ‘parish’ residents fair little better emerging as either smug , catty and malcontented or just plain bonkers in one way or another.
In short, there was no-one in the whole cast of characters up to page 237 that I cared enough about to soldier on through another 200-plus pages and when a book fails to engage even a modicum of sympathy, in my view it’s time to give up..
If I fancy depression as entertainment I’ll tune into Eastenders,.