The next chapter of the book is called “Olden Days”, which excited me the moment I read it. Is J.K. Rowling going back in time to establish a narrative in the days when Barry Fairbrother was alive?
This is a much briefer section than the last one, which I’m glad of.
This new section opens with the legal definition of the term “trespassers” from the Local Council Administration. And again it’s amazing how well the council administration entry fits. Although the Fields children, as we shall find, are not really trespassers in the legal sense, it is certainly how the people of Pagford think of them.
This section is very strange. The chapter doesn’t seem to take place in the “olden days” at all. It’s just describing the Parish Council and the city’s conflicts with the neighboring city, Yarvil. It’s interesting and written in good prose similar to the opening of Goblet of Fire again, but it would seem more fitting for an introduction or perhaps the “guide to Pagford” book. It appears very misplaced.
Same for this section. But we do see a character from the present come in, and a narrative of the olden years is being established, though in the style of a history book, not the “in-the-moment” history style Rowling used in Goblet of Fire. It tells of the ancient Sweetlove House manor that passed down through generations until the Sweetloves died out in the early 1900s. And a bit of the present starts to synch up, as a childhood recollection of Howard’s of this period is mentioned. But then a man named Aubrey Fawley came in the 1950s to buy the house. And Rowling goes on and on about how people expected him to be so great and good for their town that we just know it’s going to be the exact opposite.
But then, so local legend told, came the sudden darkness that attends the appearance of the wicked fairy.
See? The very first sentence. Knew it. Fawley triggered a sixty-year conflict with the town by selling his fields to Yarvil, which it used to build two separate estates of houses, one called the Fields which straddles the border of Pagford.
It was in one of the Fields’ concrete and steel houses, already cracking and warping by the late 1960s, that Barry Fairbrother was born.
Again more of the present history synchs up with the past. Interesting to see a bit of the birth-to-death cycle join up.
We are given the reasons why Pagfordians so detest The Fields: The Pagford council was forced to pay for the cleaning and establishing of various things in The Fields. Fields teenagers vandalized and Pagford had to pay the damages. And they had to put up with these miscreants joining the school “and to deafen the tiny classrooms with their strident Yarvil accents“. (Seriously? They’re one town away, and they have different accents? Really?)
Also, more of Barry Fairbrother’s life is mentioned briefly to us.
Most of the Fields pupils who came to St. Thomas’s blended in well with their peers in Pagford; some, indeed, were admitted to be perfectly nice children. Thus Barry Fairbrother had moved up through the school, a popular and clever class clown, only occasionally noticing that the smile of a Pagford parent stiffened when he mentioned the place where he lived.
But then there is Krystal Weedon. And jeez, she almost single-handedly created the Pagfordians’ anger and paranoia about the delinquent children of Yarvil entering their schools. Kind of an amazing accomplishment for one individual.
Pagford’s animosity for the Fields has calmed in recent years, but it still exists and now finally “the anti-Fielders of Pagford found themselves, at last, on the trembling threshold of victory. The recession was forcing local authorities to streamline, cut and reorganize. There were those on the higher body of Yarvil District Council who foresaw an advantage to their electoral fortunes if the crumbling little estate, likely to fare poorly under the austerity measures imposed by the national government, were to be scooped up, and its disgruntled inhabitants joined to their own voters“.
This is very good prose and storytelling, and I am impressed that Rowling is able to create this detailed history for a town and make it so believable, yet interesting. And she also uses it to give us a lot of information about Howard’s character.
I don’t think I have ever seen anything like this in a book before. This is so utterly unorthodox, I don’t think this book would ever have been published if J.K. Rowling hadn’t written it. Even the normal narrative chapters are unconventional for a book. Not only is J.K. Rowling writing a novel different from her previous ones, she’s writing one different from most novels being printed today.
This section is turning out to be useful for giving insight into Howard’s character, and his extremely flawed and unreasonable world-view is still portrayed with some kind of backing to it, at least from his point of view. I like that we are shown more of Barry’s personality, too, in the form of his jokes at Howard’s expense, which he took patriotically. He seemed like a good man with a sense of humor.
It’s interesting to demonstrate how irrational the human mind is: if you were born somewhere, you like it and think it’s better than the other places. This is certainly true for Howard, and it’s shown to be true as well for Barry, who was born in the Fields and wanted to defend it and Krystal Weedon’s reputation to the press. Which angers Howard extremely, and I have to admit I can’t really blame him for it.
His objection was both principled and personal: he had not yet forgotten how his granddaughter had sobbed in his arms, with bloody sockets where her teeth had been, while he tried to soothe her with a promise of triple prizes from the tooth fairy. (Krystal punched his granddaughter’s teeth out.)
I can see why people on Amazon.com have been calling this book boring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is bad, it’s interesting stuff. But it depends on the kind of person who you are. This is a novel for adults, and adults are likely to find this much more interesting than the teenagers who enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s previous books. J.K. Rowling is writing a very different book than her previous ones, for a different group of people.
As much as I found this interesting, I hope it will be the last of its kind in this book, and I am thankful I will be back with a more conventional chapter tomorrow. This chapter was difficult to write about. Very selfish, I know.