Glad to be back with you, ladies and gentlemen. Obama won his second term and is still our President, which I could have told you three years ago if you wanted to know.

PART THREE

Now, as we begin the third part of The Casual Vacancy, we are given another quote from the Local Council Administration: the definition of “duplicity”. It reads “A resolution should not deal with more than one subject…Disregard of this rule usually leads to confused discussion and may lead to confused action….”

This seemed to me to be a clever double-meaning: while the passage is a quotation of British law, it also sounds perfectly as if it is describing the proper way to write a book. But this is too early in the book for it to contain the “resolution”. But it couldn’t be referring to that law being used in this book! How could such an obvious double-meaning be completely unintentional? But there are FOUR WHOLE PARTS LEFT AFTER THIS!

Well, let’s start reading. It’s the only way it’ll ever make sense.

I

“…ran out of here, screaming blue murder, calling her a Paki bitch – and now the paper’s called for a comment, because she’s…”

This is such an excellent first sentence. We begin in medias res, and our minds are immediately fixated on whether the last end of the sentence would have been “dead”. We are forced to read on, and (after another scene that feels like it being played out in real life, but you know what, I’m not even gonna say that anymore, I’ll say it if it doesn’t at any point) we learn that that is the case.

“Yeah, I- I wasn’t – Laura already – I was coming to give you this note. The Yarvil and District Gazette’s rung. Mrs. Weedon’s died and one of her granddaughters is saying-“

I anticipated it, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. And that we would be gripped immediately upon opening this chapter to wonder whether or not that is the case. It’s just fantastic writing.

But then we get a scene with Howard in Jawanda’s office, and apart from establishing how much Jawanda loathes Howard (which we already know), it doesn’t seem to have any purpose except to establish that Howard knows that he’s greatly overweight and he doesn’t care or want to do anything about changing that. The only reason this 2 1/2-page long scene would be here is either to foreshadow health problems by Howard and a further heart attack by Howard, or it is a complete red herring done to make us anticipate Howard’s death.

As pointless as it would render the majority of this section, I would actually prefer the latter, as that would make the writing very clever. Add on to Shirley’s recollecting Howard’s heart attack and her subsequent thoughts about him and you have multiple set-up for something that never ends up happening. Of course, that would also render all of the “foreshadowing” entirely pointless.

II

When I first read this section, I viewed it as very strong, but I was disconnected from Terri’s emotions. I am no longer. Later in the very day that I read this section I received a call from my mother informing me that my adoptive grandfather died. Like Terri, it was 2 days late. Like Terri, I was not particularly close with him and it was not all an unexpected death.

However, it was not nearly as similar to Terri’s experience as you might think, and in fact very different. I had never been very close with him. He didn’t talk much and I don’t think we ever had any lengthy conversation, and I knew him for a far shorter time than Terri knew Nana Cath, and his death was expected for far longer than Nana Cath’s.

Rowling does a very good job describing Terri’s emotions and her recollections, and showing how she’s viewed in the community and the hurt of that. That’s all I can say about it. I put off writing about this due to the fresh sting of my emotions, but I realized that it would be best for me to write about them now while I still have them. I recognize my emotions are far different from Terri’s. There are probably many people who can identify far quicker, and my sole complaint, which is a strong one, is that they are forced to re-live such emotions seemingly very unnecessarily. Rowling has admitted to be obsessed with death and all her works reflect that. And while Barry’s death has a strong purpose to serve in the plot, Nana Cath’s appears to be just a random death at the moment included due to Rowling’s obsession with death, and you shouldn’t force so many people to relive those emotions if you don’t have a strong reason for it.

III

I’m always glad whenever we see Mary, and her relationship with Gavin is very interesting and well-depicted. The differences between Mary and Kay are very interesting and true-to-character.

Rowling does a very good job giving insight into these characters and their situation, thinking them through and getting involved in them.

It’s clear from the beginning that she has read Andrew’s post on the Parish Council blog, and it was very exciting to read. I like that Rowling kept us in suspense with no reactions to the Parish Council post for the next section of Part Two and the first two parts of this. Mary’s reaction is very realistic. Both Mary and Gavin’s reactions are interesting to compare: Mary believes that it may have actually been Barry, and is either devastated by the thought of him being alive as a ghost or by the thought that someone impersonated her husband. Gavin just dismisses it at as a sick joke. Many readers might miss the fact that Gavin doesn’t actually read the post, and it’s unclear whether Mary did. So we still have yet to see how people will react to the allegations.

I like that Barry and Mary’s marriage wasn’t perfect, and that Mary still has resentment towards him for many things, because this is probably true for many couples. Also, I think I have an idea how the Gavin plotline is going to develop somewhere now.

“Are you staying for dinner, Gav?” called Fergus.
“Do, if you want to,” said Mary.
A surge of warmth flooded him.
“I’d love to,” he said. “Thanks.”

IV

We are now with the Mollison group (Howard, Shirley, Miles, Samantha, and Maureen) talking about Nana Cath’s death, which still doesn’t appear to serve any immediate purpose in the plot, as it isn’t mentioned at all in at least the next three sections. It also felt a bit forced that the Mollisons would care about it, but Rowling explains it well with Howard’s family connections and how he knows everyone in town (except for Simon, of course).

We get the typical mental clash between them and the displaying of their personalities that you would guess and that we have become accustomed to. Also, they talk about how the Weedons are planning to sue Dr. Jawanda for giving Nana Cath the wrong medicine. This confused me when I read it. I don’t remember it ever being mentioned before and it seems like a pretty important plot-point. But Nana Cath’s allegations were childish and unfounded, right? It’ll be thrown out of court. The thing that really surprises me is Maureen’s statement that she denied an asthma-afflicted boy antibiotics. Dr. Jawanda has always appeared as nothing less than a purely professional doctor who does her job well, so these allegations have to be unfounded as well, right? Right?

But then the council post plot comes in!

Determined not to return to the room until Maureen had finished, Shirley turned into the study and checked to see whether anyone had sent in apologies for the next Parish Council meeting; as secretary, she was already putting together the agenda.

“Howard – Miles – come and look at this!”

It’s so exciting to see how these people will react to the news that it really bothered me that Rowling suddenly begins devoting the time to Samantha’s inner thoughts.

Why are you always here? Samantha asked the older woman loudly, inside her own head. You couldn’t make me lonely enough to live in Howard and Shirley’s pocket.

The last sentence of this is very confusing. I can’t make any sense of it at all. What does it mean? Granted, her inner fantasy about disposing of the house and Maureen is hilarious in its outrageousness. But then we get back to the present of them discovering the post.

Maureen’s mouth was slack with anticipation.

So is mine, so stop distracting me, Rowling. But then we get their uninterrupted reactions, which are very well done and entertaining to read. Miles and Howard have read the post and they reveal its contents to the others, who are unsure whether they are true or not, though Howard seems to believe so, as he tells Miles that they can’t have anything on him or they would have told it. And that letter makes me very curious. Howard suspects it is from the same source, but it seems doubtful Andrew cares enough about politics to write it. So who did write it? And is it going to be important later on, or is it a red herring?

Also, I enjoy how Samantha is the only one who guesses the truth at who wrote the post (someone unrelated to politics who just has a grudge against Simon), which they mock her for and dismiss as ridiculous. But it seems odd Samantha merely thinks “Oh, fuck off, Shirley“. Shirley’s behavior is rude enough to merit it.

Also, I enjoy how self-aware Rowling is, in saying what many would probably have mocked in spoofs and derisive reviews of this book:
They were all perfectly ridiculous, Samantha thought, sitting here in front of Shirley’s commemorative plates as if they were in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street, as though one bit of tittle-tattle on a Parish Council website constituted an organized campaign, as though any of it mattered.

But then we leave the present to suddenly delve into Samantha’s fantasies about the boy band singer her daughter listens to. It feels very strange that we suddenly delve into this, but we have ceased the main conversation about the council post, so it’s not a distraction. I just don’t understand what it could be leading up to. Samantha isn’t honestly going to leave Miles for the boy band singer, is she? It might make more sense for her obsessions to fall upon someone in the community who she knows, but I guess we’ll just have to see what it builds up to.

And then Ruth calls and Shirley tells her to look at the post. I love the way this is done and how well it leads right into the next section.

V

This section picks right up from the other one, which I honestly believe is the best way to do it. Rowling must have edited this section many times, and it shows. It’s done so well, Ruth reading the news, her reaction, and then having to tell Simon. I was on the edge of my seat when I read this. I especially like the subtle details. This is similar to the way I read, though not quite so extreme:

He was not a quick reader. He read every word, every line, painstakingly, carefully.

I had always been looking forward to Simon’s reaction, and Rowling doesn’t disappoint here. It’s perfectly in character for him, reacting exactly as one would expect him to. But I was shocked at the extent of his cruelty, with him becoming so enraged that he viciously attacks his wife for almost no reason:

He ran at her and hit her in the face, exactly as he had wanted to when he had first seen her silly frightened expression; her glasses spun into the air and smashed against the bookcase; he hit her again and she crashed down onto the computer table she had bought so proudly with her first month’s wages from South West General.

This really felt like a J.K. Rowling novel again. I’ve always enjoyed Rowling’s descriptions of madness, and Simon reminds me very much of Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter novels. In fact, if you switch the names in places, parts of this scene could easily be from a Harry Potter novel:

“This’ll cost me my job,” said Uncle Vernon, staring wild-eyed around the room, as if there might be somebody there he had forgotten to hit. “They’re already talking about reducancies. This’ll be it. This’ll-” He slapped the lamp off the end table, but it didn’t break, merely rolled on the floor. He picked it up, tugged the lead out of the wall socket, raised it over his head and threw it at Harry, who dodged.
“Who’s talked?” Uncle Vernon yelled, as the lamp base broke apart on the wall. “Someone’s talked!”
“It’s some bastard at the drillworks, isn’t it?” Harry shouted back; his lip was thick and throbbing; it felt like a tangerine segment. “D’you think we’d have-d’you think we don’t know how to keep our mouths shut by now?”
It was like trying to read a wild animal. He could see the muscles working in his uncle’s jaw, but he could tell that Uncle Vernon was considering Harry’s words.

In fact, there is a passage nearly exactly like the last one in Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire. I’m not insulting the novel by any means. I bought it because it was a J.K. Rowling novel but it’s so different from her other books I’ve forgotten that it is by her most of the time.

I enjoyed Simon’s ignorance about the Internet, too. It reminds me of that episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends where Mr. Herriman thought he could get rid of an embarrassing video of him uploaded on the Internet by disconnecting the computer and monitor it was uploaded on and throwing them in a garbage can.

I really enjoy all of this, including the insights into Simon’s mind (one difference from the Harry Potter novels is we would mainly get insights only into Harry’s mind) and how he suspects the forklift driver. It really does happen the way it would, right down to Simon immediately getting up to leave to dispose of the evidence.

VI

Things denied, things untold, things hidden and disguised.

I love the eerie way this begins, showing us the consequences of the previous section, and then going to the present with Ruth asking Shirley to remove the post. I wouldn’t have the nerve to ask because the post reveals illegal activities. But Ruth says they are silly lies, so what can Shirley do? I would hate to be in her shoes.

I like Andrew’s insights in to his parents, but I think he is being too harsh in thinking Ruth should demand the post be removed. This could easily result in Shirley refusing to out of anger, and it would be suspicious. It’s best to be polite. Still, these are interesting observations and insights. Ruth is a coward or lying to herself.

I don’t understand why Andrew is saying that she should take the post down: “Did you tell her she could be in trouble for leaving defamatory stuff on there, if she moderates the boards?” Why does he so quickly dismiss the allegations as falsehoods when he knows they are/were true? Shirley is under no legal obligation whatsoever to remove the post. The police should investigate this matter to see if these allegations are true.

Ruth is deluding herself believing her husband has any moral code at all.

And then we basically travel in time to a lunch between Vikram and Parminder Jawanda and Tessa and Colin Wall. It is interesting to see how Dr. Jawanda suspects Howard of having written the post. It does seem likely, when you consider how those phrases Dr. Jawanda notes do sound like something Howard would say. It’s funny how no one suspects the true culprit. Samantha and Tessa guess at it being someone unrelated to politics who Simon offended, but even they don’t suspect Simon Price’s son. Life is like that sometimes, I guess. The most improbable answer is the correct one.

We get mainly character details and some talk about what’s going on with the election plot, which is good. Parminder’s attitude regarding Howard and the council is done very well.

One detail: It bothers me how Tessa thinks about it being unfair that Dr. Parminder, who works hard, is greeted with hatred and suspicion while her husband, “who rarely joined or participated in anything” is loved by the community, just a few paragraphs after we are told Vikram works such long hours that he hardly has any time to spend on social activities.

I do enjoy the insight into Howard’s character (Why doesn’t he try to get on the District Council?). I don’t know what the real point of this, though. The fact that it is interrupted with so many insights and distractions and appears to have no central point is at all is driving me insane. We get a brief mention of the malpractice controversy with Dr. Jawanda, but she just burhses that off angrily saying she doesn’t want to talk about it. And this part where Colin reflects on being called at school is just strange. Was he called to ask if he had touched Krystal, or if someone else had touched Krystal? I’m going to assume Colin, but… it’s so strange. We never heard about him doing that. He doesn’t seem the type to do it. What relevance does it have to anything? It’s so strange. And look at this.

Colin had often imagined how he would find out that the game was up: a guarded article in the paper; faces turned away from him when he entered Mollison and Lowe’s; the headmistress calling him into her office for a quiet word. He had visualized his downfall a thousand times: his shame exposed and hung around his neck like a leper’s bell, so that no concealment would be possible, ever again. He would be sacked. He might end up in prison.

WHAT ON EARTH DID HE DO? This revelation that Colin has some horrible secret he has to hide or he’ll get arrested is so sudden and so bizarre. This section is trying to do too many things at once to the point that I can’t focus on any individual thing and I don’t think I’m supposed to, either, yet apparently I’m supposed to care. About what? One second, this, and then the next second, something entirely different.

I suppose the point is to give us insights into Colin and Tessa’s minds and their marital difficulties (wives at war with their husbands) which is done well. The revelation that Tessa has diabetes made me cringe, because my adoptive grandfather (the one who died) had diabetes and this greatly contributed to his death. I would probably be able to laugh at Fats’ behavior if it weren’t for that. As it is, I just can’t stand reading this, and I’m sorry that I cannot be objective.

I do like how Rowling highlights the differences in culture with Sikhs: how Dr. Jawanda is angry at her daughter for working instead of just letting her parents provide for her and getting married. However, she does want her to have a job someday and manage for herself which is the opposite of Vikram’s belief. Many authors would probably just portray foreigners having the same opinions as the British in these areas, but Rowling does not.

Just one more note. There’s one point where Tessa is about to say that all Fats cares about is computer games and cigarettes, but stops because Colin doesn’t have to I really have to wonder: why is she keeping this a secret, and why is she okay with it?

I take it this section was really just to show the conflicts with these characters and their lives and to talk some more about the election drama, and I honestly enjoyed it when I first read it. But having to go over it here to write about was torture.

VII


And now we go right back to an inside look at the Price drama. I liked how the last three sections naturally led into each other, and I wish that the last section had simply left off with Simon and Andrew and gone straight to the beginning of this, but I guess Rowling felt that the audience needed a break from them, and maybe she was right.

In any case, I think this is a very good section and much better than the mess that was the last section. I like the insight into Simon’s inner thoughts and how he is reacting. It’s done very well. It’s a bit surprising the police didn’t search the house, though. I suppose that if Shirley hadn’t been Ruth’s friend, Howard would have demanded the police have Simon Price investigated.

Andrew’s thoughts are portrayed well, too. The characters all react in-character to everything that happens, exactly how you would expect them to. And I have to admit I share Andrew’s disappointment, and his feelings. Rowling does a good job creating this sad, dismal mood, and then suddenly making it a victorious mood, but a quiet, restrained victory.

Then, without warning or fanfare, came victory. Heading down the dark stairs in search for food on Friday evening, Andrew heard Simon talking stiffly on the telephone in the sitting room, and paused to listen.
“…withdraw my candidacy,” he was saying. “Yes. Well, my personal circumstances have changed. Yes. Yes. Yeah, that’s right. OK. Thank you.”
Andrew heard Simon replace the receiver.
“Well, that’s that,” his father said to his mother. “I’m well out of it, if that’s the kind of shit they’re throwing around.”

Without warning or fanfare indeed! This is a major plot development, yet it happens so quickly, so suddenly and quietly. Now it is just Colin and Miles in the running. It is disappointing that all those funny political mishaps Andrew imagined for Simon never ended up happening. But Simon never had a chance anyway. I hope we will get into the election in the next section with debates between the candidates.

It’s strange that Simon asks his son to put up incriminating facts about Miles on the council board, since he dropped out. I suppose it’s solely out of revenge, but I wonder whether Andrew will actually do it if he finds anything. He might, just out of fun, but maybe he wouldn’t, out of spite for Simon. I can’t see where this is going, but I enjoyed Andrew’s inner feelings portrayed. The flashback to Simon’s reaction to Andrew’s job is odd, though. I don’t know why Rowling felt it was necessary.

There is eerie foreshadowing at the end of this section:
He thought that it was all over, finished, done with. Andrew had never yet had reason to observe the first tiny bubble of fermenting yeast, in which was contained an inevitable, alchemical transformation.

Oh my God what is going to happen? Is Simon going to start running again? I have absolutely no idea.

VIII

I think this is the first time in the book we get a POV of Gaia. The insights into her life and how she felt being forced to move to Pagford are very well done and believable. I’ve said this many times already, so that’s all I’ll say. Insight into Gaia’s friendship with Sukhvinder, Sukhvinder’s life, all very interesting and perfectly believable. The racial issues that minorities are forced to deal with are very well-portrayed. And their conversation is done well, although Gaia is giving Gavin too much credit thinking he’d have the courage to leave Kay.

Andrew Price was staring almost constantly at Gaia through a gap in the white faces all around them. Sukhvinder, who had noticed this, thought that Gaia had not, but she was wrong. Gaia was simply not bothering to stare back or preen herself, because she was used to boys staring at her; it had been happening since she was twelve.

After all the time we spent in Andrew’s POV ogling her, I was very glad to see this from her POV and learn her feelings about it.

We get some insight into Gaia’s romantic history. I guess it’s to show she’s not a virgin, but again it feels gratuitous bordering on Gruen. Is it to make a statement about how today’s generation has sex too early? Is it to spoil her allure for Andrew once he discovers that she’s not a virgin? It seems as if she still wants them to remain faithful to each other because she’s planning on going back to him, so it’s probably a way of showing that she isn’t going to be willing to start a relationship with Andrew.

And then we get some excitement. Krystal and her gang spot Sukhvinder from across the street and threaten her, blaming her mother for Nana Cath’s death. The situation is mainly well-portrayed, but it seems odd that she doesn’t explain the situation to Gaia, so she can defend her or keep her hidden.

If she could have died…if she could have disappeared forever…but the solid surface of things refused to dissolve around her, and her body, her hateful hermaphrodite’s body, continued, in its stubborn, lumpen way, to live… ……. Or she could walk in front of a car. She imagined it slamming into her body and her bones shattering. How quickly would she die, broken in the road? She still preferred the thought of drowning, of cool clean water putting her to sleep forever: a sleep without dreams…

Rowling does such a good job getting in depth and portraying her feelings that you feel so sorry for her. It sends an important message to any teen readers: DO – NOT – BULLY. (One of my fellow bloggers has spoken about this a great deal, and I feel no need to upstage him.)

The following scene with Tessa is done well. Rowling especially does a very good job portraying the subtleties involved in these characters’ inner relationships, which she somehow manages to keep straight.

IX

We get a lot of good insight into Kay’s feelings. This really is a largely character-driven story, and I respect her for being able to create such characters and keep them in character, with hardly any exceptions.

Kay goes to Colin’s house to speak with him about the Bellchapel Addiction Clinic. She wants to forge an alliance with him. It’s good to see the election plotline coming into play, and the characters’ interactions are done very well. Tessa’s believing Kay to be having an affair with Colin is random, though, as she realizes she was wrong just 4 paragraphs later.

I do feel happy for Colin, having an ally come to him like this. To be honest, I think Colin would make a good councilor. He believes in the same things Barry stood for and what Kay believes in. He has my vote.

And I feel sorry for Tessa having to deal with a son like Fats and now worrying that he’s dating Krystal Weedon on top of that. But the italicized “Demean himself? Is that it? Is that what you think?” is very strange. It seems like Rowling herself is saying this, much like Esther Forbes’ impassioned pleading to Rab in Johnny Tremain.

I enjoyed the scene with Fats, too, especially Tessa’s line “You ought to be a barrister, Stu”. After googling it, I discovered this is the English word for “lawyer”. I think she’s right.

Many people have disliked this book because they claim that none of the characters are likable or sympathetic. Read this page and half of the next. It’s just three good people getting along well with each other. It’s strange Kay says “It’s astounding she’s as sweet as she is”, though, because they all know she’s anything but sweet. She was planning to beat up a girl for something someone else did! (I hope Tessa did talk her out of that.) The meaning would seem to be that it’s astounding she isn’t more less sweet, but then why does Tessa become annoyed with Colin for being hypocritical?

A lot of people would probably dismiss it as gratuitous and not revealing any important information, but I liked the flashback with Barry, even though it does disrupt the narrative for a full three pages, because not much important is happening to pay attention to there. I liked seeing what Barry was like in detail like this. Many will note Rowling has a knack for creating likable characters so they can be mourned after they die — Cedric Diggory, Barry Fairbrother — but Barry is a very real person, and I enjoyed his interactions with Krystal. (He didn’t realize the truth behind his line of “You’ll have to give up the fags, Krystal”, did he? And when you consider Nana Cath’s death it may become very sad foreshadowing far beyond this book’s completion.)

The final sentence of this section makes me wonder, though. Why is Tessa feeling sick? Is she going to be the next “casual vacancy”?

X

We are back with Sukhvinder now. The opening sentence saying that “today, each was absorbed in their own particular thoughts” makes me very curious, considering we only hear about Sukhvinder’s. But her siblings’ thoughts were probably about much less important things.

Rowling does a very good job giving us insights into Sukhvinder’s mind. We do feel her feelings.

The material about this farm seems very random, though. I can’t imagine how it will be relevant being introduced this late. It’s very strange, and seems like filler.

I do feel sorry for Sukhvinder being made to feel so horribly inadequate by her mother. She doesn’t even get the chance to explain how Krystal was planning to beat her up, although Dr. Jawanda was probably told of it by Tessa and just doesn’t care. Too often parents are too quick to get angry at their children and far too unwilling to even attempt to see things from their point of view.

What had she expected? Warm, encircling arms and comfort? When had she ever been hugged and held by Parminder? There was comfort to be had from the razer blade hidden in her stuffed rabbit; but the desire, mounting to a need, to cut and bleed, could not be satisfied by daylight, with the family awake and her father on his way.
The dark lake of desperation and pain that lived in Sukhvinder and yearned for release was in flames, as if it had been fuel all along.

I understand depression, I have experienced depression, but I cannot understand, and will never understand why anyone would cut themselves. I’m sorry, human beings are complex and it just doesn’t make any sense to me. And if Sukhvinder is this depressed, why doesn’t she cut deep enough to kill herself? And why doesn’t Dr. Jawanda or Vikram or anyone else notice the scars on her wrists?

But then…….. oh my God. Oh my God. Sukhvinder hacks into the parish council website using the SQL injection she learned after taking the same class as Andrew, and hacks into the “Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother” user on the site!

THIS IS SO EXCITING!I think it’s very believable, too. Sukhvinder had the information to do this, she had the motive. The only thing hard to believe is that she would think to do this, but it isn’t ludicrous.

It took Sukhvinder much longer to compose the message than it had to hack into the site. She had carried the secret accusation with her for months, ever since New Year’s Eve, when she had noticed with wonder her mother’s face, at ten to midnight, from the corner of the party where she was hiding.

Okay. As exciting as this is, it seems so strange to me. We don’t know what Dr. Jawanda’s secret is, and Dr. Jawanda isn’t running for Barry’s seat. So this could cause her political harm, but it isn’t related to the main politics-centered plot. I think it would have been a better move to have Dr. Jawanda running as a candidate, but maybe this will turn out to be a brilliant move. Maybe this will all make sense. I’m eager to find out what Dr. Jawanda’s secret is, and what kind of results there will be of this.

XI

The final part centers around the Weedons. Nana Cath’s death wasn’t mentioned at all for three straight sections. But it has serviced the plot now, as it led to the furthering of Sukhvinder’s depression and the leaking of Dr. Jawanda’s secrets on the Parish Council website. And here in the final part it again comes into play, in what is probably the most final part of anyone’s death. The funeral. You go there, you cry, you remember them, you say goodbye, then you go home and you’re sad for a few days but you learn to live without them and it’s over. So it’s very fitting that this part opened with the beginning of this process and ended with the end. (Also, I assume they made arrangements to have Robbie taken out of school. This might cause trouble with Kay since he doesn’t end up going, yet stays home from school anyway.)

As she pulled up his least ripped trousers, which were a good two inches two short in the leg, she tried to explain to him who Nana Cath had been, but she might as well have saved her breath. Robbie had no memory of Nana Cath; he had no idea what Nana meant; no concept of any relative other than mother and sister.

This is very amusing to me because I do exactly this with my cat many times.

It was a bit surprising to me that Terri decided not to go. She seemed to be deeply mourning her and remembering the good things about her for the first time because of her death. But it is probably more realistic for her that she would bottle these feelings up and her anger would return.

I like Krystal’s bittersweet longing and mystique for Anne-Marie and what it adds to the story. (It’s a bit similar to my baby cousin Rosemary who was born last month and who I have yet to see a picture of but not nearly to this extent at all.)

It was good to get some background on how Krystal found out. Sukhvinder was right and very intelligent in her reasoning that it must have been explained to Krystal, and she even got the person right. (Dr. Jawanda does not give her enough credit.) I like that this is the only time that the narrative is interrupted. The main sequence of events which we are supposed to be following and invested in is left un-interrupted after this. Also good to know she’s decided not to go after Sukhvinder.

It’s disappointing she decided not to go to the funeral with Robbie. I assume they made arrangements to have Robbie taken out of school for the funeral, and the fact that he didn’t go might cause trouble with Kay. It is a very redeeming character trait that she feels so much love for her brother that she is this passionate about keeping her mother off drugs, but since Obbo doesn’t arrive until after the funeral is long over, she really should have gone. (Rowling probably didn’t want to write another funeral scene, though, because she was afraid of seeming repetitive.)

But this is where we get to Obbo. Obbo has been spoken of often in this book, but this is the first time we actually meet him.

Although she had told him to stay put, Robbie had followed Krystal downstairs. She could smell his shampooed hair over the smell of fags and stale sweat that clung to Obbo in his ancient leather jacket. Obbo had had a few; when he leered at her, she smelled the beer fumes.

Yeah, he’s basically exactly how we imagined him.

I like that Terri does genuinely want to get off drugs and is panicked when she believes the clinic is being shut down, and she isn’t angered by Krystal’s insistence to Obbo that Terri doesn’t want anything. In the end she just excuses herself to go to bed.

[Krystal] heard the front door close and felt triumphant. “See yeh.”

So it seems like it’s all over. Terri’s still clean, won’t lose Robbie, Obbo is gone. All is right with the world.

“You got a lovely arse, Krystal.”
She jumped so violently that a plate slipped off the heaped side and smashed on the filthy floor. He had not gone, but had followed her. He was staring at her chest in its tight T-shirt.
“Fuck off,” she said.

What the what the. Oh, no. No, no. No, no, ohhh noooo.

His hand was on her left breast. She tried to knock it away; he seized her wrist in his other hand. Her lit cigarette grazed his face and he punched her, twice, to the side of the head; more plates shattered on the filthy floor and then, as they wrestled, she slipped and fell; the back of her head smacked on the floor, and he was on top of her: she could feel his hand at the waistband of her tracksuit bottoms, pulling.
“No – fuck – no!”
His knuckles in her belly as he undid his own fly – she tried to scream and he smacked her across the face – the smell of him was thick in her nostrils as he growled in her ear, “Fuckin’ shout and I’ll cut yer.”
He was inside her and it hurt; she could hear him grunting and her own tiny whimper; she was ashamed of the noise she made, so frightened and so small.

Okay what what what just happened Krystal just got raped.

I mean, jeez, I can’t even say I was shocked by this. It just happened so quickly I was just like “Okay, this is happening. Yeah, yeah.”

Again, Rowling does not feel it necessary to describe the rape in graphic detail. She’s not writing porn. She shrugs it through it and focuses on Krystal’s feelings, so that no one could possibly enjoy Krystal’s experience or accuse Rowling of enjoying it.
She was shaking as she had never done in her life. She thought she might be sick; she could smell him all over her. The back of her head throbbed; there was a pain inside her, and wetness seeping into her pants. She ran out of the room into the living room and stood, shivering, with her arms wrapped around herself; then she knew a moment of terror, that he would come back, and hurried to the front door to lock it.

But how how what is Krystal going to do. This is traumatizing. And I love Terri’s reaction. She can’t believe Obbo would do this. She can’t accept it. And I can’t imagine what she is going to do next.

Krystal doesn’t know what to do next, either. She just runs out the door. Just has to get away.

Some people would have gone to the police, she knew that; but you did not invite the police into your life when your mother was Terri Weedon.

This is probably the most flawless section in the book. Rowling puts Krystal’s inner monologues in the place where they should be. It doesn’t distract us from the plot because Krystal doesn’t know where she’s going, and she’s trying to figure it out. I love how Rowling portrays her feelings, erratic, she wishes she had Barry to tell, Nana Cath to go to. Good people like Barry Fairbrother and Nana Cath die but scum like Simon Price and Obbo live on.

(Rowling writes that Terri “liked and trusted nobody“. The exception is Obbo, who is probably the only person she has met in the book who she shouldn’t like or trust.)

And then the answer came to her, as though Mr. Fairbrother had shown her the way.

If she got knocked up by Fats Wall, she would be able to get her own place from the council. She would be able to take Robbie to live with her and the baby if Terri used again. ……

She would lose Fats in getting pregnant; they always went, once you were expecting; she had watched it happen nearly every time in the Fields. But perhaps he would be interested; he was so strange. It did not matter much to her either way. Her interest in him, except as the essential component in her plan, had dwindled to almost nothing. What she wanted was the baby: the baby was more than a means to an end. She liked babies; she had always loved Robbie. She would keep the two of them safe, together; she would be like a better, kinder, younger Nana Cath to her family.

Oh my God oh my God this all happened so QUICKLY.My brain can’t even register this. Finally I have gotten to the point where I can see why this novel was described as “endlessly surprising”.

When I read the final section of this part, I felt an overwhelming sense of finality to it for the first time, like this was a big deal. (I went in the garage and into the car to read it and sat there in the dark with only the built-in car light to see by. And eventually that turned off at the end.) And Rowling certainly delivered. So much happened in this part! Nana Cath died, Gavin is becoming closer to Mary, Simon read the post on the parish council site and dropped out of the race, Colin is being accused of inappropriately touching Krystal and is hiding some horrible secret, Dr. Jawanda is being sued, Sukhvinder’s depression worsened and she uploaded some mysterious secret of Dr. Jawanda’s on the Parish Council website, and Krystal just got raped. Things really are happening. My brain can hardly process it. WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE NEXT PART?

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