Sorry I didn’t get this up on time. I actually could have if I had dedicated more time to it and I even wrote the first two parts on Sunday, but I woke up late and hey, the last two sections were very long. All right, that’s no excuse.
But anyway, let’s jump right in.
We start Wednesday with explaining where Krystal Weedon was on Monday and Tuesday: Sleeping over at her friend’s house because her mother agreed to be paid in heroin for a stock of computers to be re-sold.
We are shown Krystal’s relationship with her mother, which is horrible and mutually disrespectful. This section is basically all about Krystal’s insane, dysfunctional home life.
Rowling does a good job writing these characters, their voices, and their situation. Krystal is a person and a lot of time is spent on showing her sadness over Fairbrother’s death and of her regrets and reminisces.
And that’s important, because this is a shocking family. I honestly don’t think either Krystal or her mother have the slightest idea what a normal family is supposed to be like. Krystal is horrified and angry to realize that her mother had been on heroin when Kay came over before and constantly reassuring Kay she will help her mother get over her addiction, but she casually smokes a cigarette in front of Kay. And what’s stranger: Kay doesn’t seem to care, at all. The legal smoking age in England is 18, I checked. I mean, for as much as Kay talks about how this is a horrible atmosphere for Robbie, which is true, I have to say: WHAT ABOUT KRYSTAL? Krystal is 16, she’s still a minor. Why isn’t Kay concerned about her?
We are back with Shirley Mollison now in her volunteer job at the hospital that we were told she had on Monday. And then we get backstory on why she took the job. This is further opportunity for Rowling to develop her as a shallow person, who took it because she thought the Queen would be visiting and she could get photographed with her. I have to say it’s getting a bit tiring. We get it, she’s shallow!
But also so she could get all the gossip and thus drown out Maureen’s bragging about her job at the café. Interesting to get more justification. Then we’re told about how she made her only friend in ward 28 — RUTH! The other person who we know works as a nurse! Perfect linking!
They were both, as Shirley put it, Pagford women, which made a bond.
(Though, as it happened, Shirley was not Pagford-born. She and her younger sister had grown up with their mother in a cramped and untidy flat in Yarvil. Shirley’s mother had drunk a lot; she had never divorced the girl’s father, whom they did not see. Local men had all seemed to know Shirley’s mother’s name, and smirked when they said it…but that was a long time ago, and Shirley took the view that the past disintegrated if you never mentioned it. She refused to remember.)
I was told by a fan of my fanfiction stories that he could not get through one of the stories I wrote because of how much over-detail there was, cutting the story to describe random things such as a bed or a grandfather clock. At the time I defended this, but now I can see that person’s point. Rowling has that same habit and it is getting annoying having to constantly switch gears. And she keeps doing it, on and on: to tell us about Shirley’s fantasies, to tell us how Ruth’s children are ignoring the new computer. I don’t think backstory on Shirley is really that important, either. I don’t know, I just think there might have been a better way of giving information like this. Maybe not? Again, though, I have to say I am impressed at how Rowling can keep all this information about all these characters straight.
Although at this point, we’re getting really nothing but character details, so maybe it is the perfect point: Patricia is mentioned earlier. Ruth doesn’t know why she’s out of favor any more than we do. And we get interesting observations about the women’s husbands:
Their complicity was still more enjoyable for being spiced by a sense of superiority, because each secretly pitied the other for her choice of husband. To Ruth, Howard was physically grotesque, and she was puzzled to understand how her friend, who retained a plump yet delicate prettiness, could ever have agreed to marry him. To Shirley, who could not remember ever setting eyes on Simon, who had never heard him mentioned in connection with the higher workings of Pagford, and who understood Ruth to lack even a rudimentary social life, Ruth’s husband seemed a reclusive inadequate.
Basically, it’s all exactly as you imagine it would be. Same goes for the talk about Fairbrother dying. That’s not an insult. I like that actually, to know she thinks through these characters and their intersecting lives that well, and I do like how the characters relate and Shirley and Ruth’s shared dislike of Samantha.
But then we get to the center of the chapter, something that did surprise me and excite me:
…Ruth was bursting with something thrilling that she wished to tell Shirley.
“So there’s an empty seat on the Parish Council,” Ruth said, the moment that Shirley reached the point in the story where Miles and Samantha ceded the stage to Colin and Tessa Wall.
“We call it a casual vacancy,” said Shirley kindly.
Ruth took a deep breath.
“Simon,” she said, excited at the mere telling of it, “is thinking of standing!”
The political drama is being set up, coming ever closer. We have 3 candidates: Miles Mollison, Colin Wall, and Simon Price. I’m glad we’ve gotten to this.
I was looking forward to the political intrigue, and I am loving every bit of it: how Ruth imagined Shirley would be enthusiastic and help Simon got elected (but she will likely be using this position to subtlty ruin Simon’s chances) because she doesn’t know about Miles’ nomination, but Shirley keeps her feelings hidden and pretends to be glad, which fits perfectly with her character as established earlier.
Also, it shocked me how much of a recluse Simon is. I mean, I know there was set-up for it, but still!
She, Shirley, who knew everybody who counted in Pagford, would have been hard-pressed to recognize Ruth’s husband if he came into the delicatessen: who on earth did poor Ruth think would vote for him?
Now we are with Andrew and Fats in math class. I’m sorry, but this is annoying. What is the point of this section? I guess the point is to establish how Fats and Andrew act at school, but it would be nice if it was actually relevant to some sort of plot. I’m sorry. Maybe this will all pay off, but it seems like it’s just to let us get to know these characters more, and this could have been done while also furthering some plot. Gaia isn’t even in this. We just get a brief mention of Andrew planning on how to get her in his eyeline on the bus ride home.
We are given another good example of why Fats’ philosophy is bad: he was a good student before he decided to become a determined underachiever and was put almost in the bottom set of math (Krystal is in the bottom set).
Is Sukhvinder going to turn out to be important? Is that why we spend time on Fats mocking her for having hirsutism and she breaks down crying?
I’m sorry, there really isn’t much I can say about this scene. This was funny, though:
The door of the classroom flew open and bounced, with a bang, off the wall. The class fell quiet. Cubby was standing there, flushed and furious.
“What is going on in this room? What is all this noise?”
Miss Harvey shot up like a jack-in-the-box beside Sukhvinder’s desk, looking guilty and frightened.
“Miss Harvey! Your class is making an almighty racket. What’s going on?”
…. Fats spoke.
“Well, to be perfectly frank, Father, we’ve been running rings around this poor woman.”
It surprised me that Colin wasn’t angered by this, at least not openly. And I guess I like how easily Fats defeats Kevin Cooper. But there really isn’t much to talk about, though.
Tessa is in a waiting room waiting to speak to Dr. Jawanda about Barry’s death and tell her about Colin’s plans to run. Jawanda is clearly an important woman in the political world and Tessa is a friend of hers.
I like the little details in this segment, the insights into life and Tessa’s character, but then the next part confuses me. An old lady goes into Dr. Parminder’s office, and then we get this conversation:
“Mrs. Weedon, you’re still smoking, which affects the dose I have to prescribe you. If you’d give up your cigarettes – smokers metabolize Theophylline more quickly, so the cigarettes are not only worsening your emphysema, but actually affecting the ability of the drug to -”
“Don’ you shout at me! I’ve ‘ad enough of you! I’ll report you! You’ve gave me the wrong fuckin’ pills! I wanna see someone else! I wanna see Dr. Crawford!”
I thought this was Terri at first, which utterly confused me because Terri is a young woman. Granted, she was described as “a woman who appeared simultaneously childlike and ancient“, but this person is just described as an old lady, period. I suppose it could be Terri’s grandmother she mentioned, but then why would her last name be Weedon? Maybe Terri didn’t keep her married name, didn’t get married?
Anyway, Terri goes into Parminder’s office and they discuss Barry’s death, with Tessa again apologizing for not calling. This is a very well-written scene, and the contrast between these characters is done well. However, again we get an annoying long of bit of information about a character in brackets. I guess it serves to give insight to her character, but most of these things are just back-story. Why didn’t Rowling just write a Casual Vacancy tie-in book giving backstory for the characters? Heddwynn McCloud, you have my most sincere apologies.
But I really like the political drama that we’re seeing now. It’s interesting that Parminder is actually much more supportive of Colin running for council than Tessa is. This sets up more interrupt-the-narrative-and-subsequently-our-stream-of-thinking-character-insights, but I can’t say they’re bad. I actually like them, just not the places in which they turn up.
As she watched Parminder labeling vials of her blood, she found herself hoping, though her husband and friend might think it heresy, that Howard Mollison would triumph, and prevent an election happening at all.
Well, I certainly don’t! Think of how disappointing that would be.
Now we are with Simon leaving work, very fitting as a symbolic metaphor for us leaving this chapter (though I doubt that was intended), except that he decides to “make a detour” with the forklift driver first.
We get more character details about Simon, but I think here they’re in the right place and consistent with what we know about him so far. Indeed his characterization in this section is completely consistent with all we’ve learned of him.
We also get backstory on his early life. Apparently he grew up in the Fields, too.
The youth told Simon to park at the end of Foley Road, then got out, leaving Simon behind, and headed toward a house of particularly squalid appearance. From what Simon could see by the light of the nearest street lamp, it seemed to have a pile of filth heaped beneath a downstairs window. It was only now that Simon asked himself how sensible it had been to come and pick up the stolen computer in his own car.
That’s right. Simon is buying and selling stolen computers. That was a big shock for me. Daniel (http://danielisreading.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/the-casual-vacancy-2/) sensed something suspicious about his transaction with the forklift driver, but I just thought Rowling shrugged through the conversation to get to where Fairbrother came in. I guess I underestimated her. It’s a good idea. It creates drama and tension and fits with Simon’s character. I wonder if this has anything to do with Terri buying computers for heroin, though.
Anyway, he gets home to dinner and then Rowling does something very new for her: while the first part of the section is in the second-person POV of Simon, she now switches it to Andrew’s second-person POV. We get mainly his thoughts, about Gaia and girls in general, for quite a few paragraphs. I suppose it’s a good depiction of an adolescent boy’s obsession with the opposite sex.
But then we get into character interactions that are done well, Simon announcing he is running for election, which shocks Andrew, which Simon tries to make a scene about. And then awkward, nervous talk about the computers.
“Well, there won’t be any…any trouble about it, will there?”
Simon was seized with a brutal urge to punish her for intuiting his own fears and for stoking them with her anxiety.
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t going to say anything,” he said, speaking slowly, giving himself time to make up a story; “but there was a bit of trouble when they were nicked, as it turns out.” Andrew and Paul paused in their eating and stared. “Some security guard got beaten up. I didn’t know anything about it till it was too late. I only hope there’s no comeback.”
But… why does Simon lie? I don’t understand. If they know that the computer is stolen, shouldn’t that be enough reason not to mention it to anyone? Why would he need to lie?
Her rapid imagination was already showing her the police at the door; the computer examined; Simon arrested, wrongly accused of aggravated assault – jailed.
I have a feeling the stolen computer is going to cause a lot of trouble for Simon during the election.
And Andrew proves again that he knows Simon better than his wife does in figuring it out perfectly. He thinks “You just like scaring her“, but again the computer is stolen, and they all know it. Shouldn’t that be enough to scare them into secrecy?
So dinner ends, Simon recruits his sons to help him start the computer, all while insulting them and swearing at the machine, but in the end it works perfectly and Andrew goes up to his room.
Andrew’s inner fears are done very well, and it gives us insight into Simon in what I think is actually the right way.
Awful visions surged in Andrew’s churning mind: Simon making a speech larded with the transparent lies that his wife swallowed whole; Simon pulling his Neanderthal face in an attempt to intimidate an opponent; Simon losing control and starting to spew all his favorite swearwords into a microphone: cunting, fucking, pussy, shit…
Well, now that she’s given us all those interesting, in-character situations, what on earth is actually going to play out with him? I’m very eager to find out. This chapter is almost nothing but set-up for the political drama, except for brief sections with Andrew and Krystal, which means that it must be coming very soon. I can’t wait.