I felt such a degree in finality in the ending of the last part that I had wished to delay the beginning of this part for some time. However, I realized how shameful that is. This book has been out since September 27 and Daniel has finished his reading of it, and yet here I am in the middle of November with four parts to go. I had originally intended to put up a chapter a day and for a while I was doing that, but there is just so many sections and so long in the book’s parts now that I can’t. But my obligation is to be efficient as possible, and I need to take this job more seriously.

So, without further hesitation, we begin

PART FOUR

This part has the strangest opening Local Council Administration excerpt yet:

Lunacy

5.11 At common law, idiots are subject to a permanent legal incapacity to vote, but persons of unsound mind may vote during lucid intervals.

This sounded like a joke to me when I first read it, but this is a real law and this is going to be used somehow. But by who? Terri is obviously a person of unsound mind who has lucid intervals, but I would hardly classify her as a lunatic!

When we last left the citizens of Pagford and Yarvil, Simon had dropped out of the race for Parish Council, Colin was being accused of inappropriately touching Krystal and was hiding some horrible secret, Dr. Jawanda was being sued, Sukhvinder uploaded her mother’s secrets on the Parish Council website, and Krystal got raped and is planning to get pregnant by Fats so she can give birth and raise the baby. (Confused? You won’t be after this episode of “The Casual Vacancy”.) So let’s get started!

I

Samantha Mollison had now bought herself all three of the DVDs released by Libby’s favorite boy band. She kept them hidden in her socks and tight drawer, beside her diaphragm. She had her story ready, if Miles spotted them: they were a gift for Libby.

AARGH NO! WHY WHY PLEASE KILL ME NOW.  It really does seem like a joke by Rowling. After all that excitement, we’re pumped on the edge of our seats waiting to see the consequences and you’d expect such a compelling opening, but instead we get this. And once it’s done, we immediately switch to the immediate consequences of Sukhvinder’s post on the Parish Council website, with Miles reporting this fact to Samantha while attempting to get in touch with Howard.

I like the character detail how Samantha does not want to ask questions about the post because she doesn’t want to appear nosy like Shirley and Maureen, but also because she thinks she already knows.

After a moment or two, she asked, sounding vaguely amused, “Did you say your mother might be in the firing line?”
“Well, she’s the site administrator, so she’s liable if she doesn’t get rid of defamatory or potentially defamatory statements. I’m not sure she and Dad understand how serious this could be.”
“You could defend your mother, she’d like that.”

This is really starting to bug me. Why does everyone simply dismiss these statements as lies? They may likely be the truth, and any attempt to sue others for them would result in an investigation to determine whether or not they are lies! Samantha seems to believe they are real, and if they are real, then there’s nothing illegal about reporting them.

Miles stalked out of the room, but she did not care; her thoughts had already returned to chiseled cheekbones, winged eyebrows and taut, tight abdominal muscles. She would buy a band T-shirt to wear-and one for Libby too. Jake would be undulating mere yards away from her. It would be more fun than she had had in years.

The fact that she’s planning to attend a concert by this band seems to be implying the only plot progression this could possibly have. She is actually going to leave Miles for this boy band singer.

But now the scene suddenly changes to Howard in the delicatassen talking on the phone while Shirley and Maureen gossip. There isn’t even a break, we’re just suddenly there. Rowling has never done this before.

“Screaming at me,” said Shirley. “Screaming and swearing. ‘Take it bloody down,’ she said. I said, ‘I’m taking it down, Dr. Jawanda, and I’ll thank you not to swear at me.”
“I’d’ve left it up there for another couple of hours if she’d sworn at me,” said Maureen.
Shirley smiled. As it happened, she had chosen to go and make herself a cup of tea, leaving the anonymous post about Parminder up on the site for an extra forty-five minutes before removing it.

Well, you know what I would have done? I would have NOT TAKEN IT DOWN AT ALL. I would have told Dr. Jawanda, “I’m sorry, Dr. Jawanda, but those are serious accusations. I’m afraid this is a matter that will need to be investigated to determine whether they are truly defamatory comments, and if it is concluded that they are not,
then I will remove them. I’m sorry, Dr. Jawanda. I’m only doing my duty as a law-abiding citizen.” If I were Shirley, of course.

But Shirley and Maureen’s gossiping is true to their characters and this is mostly character details, the characters doing what they would do. Miles tells Howard on the phone that he should look into the security of the site and he agrees, so it would seem there aren’t going to be any more posts.

And then we get a far more subtle and skillful transition.

The sound of a car in the darkening square outside went virtually unremarked by the three in the delicatessen, but its driver noticed the enormous shadow of Howard Mollison moving behind the cream blinds. Gavin put his foot down, eager to get to Mary.

Poor Mary having to deal with people abusing her husband’s legacy like this. Fergus guesses at the truth, as well, that it was written by a second person, and neither Mary or Gavin dismiss this theory, but Mary can’t stand hearing him recite the post. So it cuts off before we can learn Dr. Jawanda’s secret. I do enjoy how Rowling continues the suspense. (I wonder if she’s a Hitchcock fan?)

I like the subtle details: how Rowling humanizes Howard by having it acknowledged that he never did write defamatory lies about his enemies or look for their secrets, and how Fergus does not throw away the newspaper despite Mary telling to but merely takes it away.

And Mary and Gavin are growing closer and closer.

It’s strange Rowling didn’t separate this section into three parts. I suppose she wanted it to have a definitive point and exist as its own definitive entity, but I don’t feel she attempted that with any of the previous parts. And after all, shouldn’t the part be the definitive entity, or the book? To be honest, it’s like she’s doing it specifically for me, but even I’m just reviewing the individual parts.

II

And now we get an entire section devoted to Dr. Jawanda’s reaction to the post. It’s definitely all from her third-person POV.

It’s an interesting bit of character insight that she is attending a meeting to discuss Robbie Weedon’s case review on her morning off because she can’t stand sitting around the house with nothing to do. Although I often long for time to merely waste, when I get it I can’t stand it. I wish I had some sort of work to do, even reading would qualify to me.

I like how Rowling builds up the tension keeping information away from us and then finally she just gives it to us. Here is Sukhvinder’s post:
Parish Councillor Dr. Parminder Jawanda, who pretends to be so keen on looking after the poor and needy of the area, has always had a secret motive. Until I died, she was in love with me, which she could barely hide whenever she laid eyes on me, and she would vote however I told her to, whenever there was a council meeting. Now that I am gone, she will be useless as a councillor, because she has lost her brain.

I think Sukhvinder did a terrible job with this post. Andrew wanted to talk about his father’s emotional abuse but he knew it wouldn’t be enough to ruin his father’s reputation, it would just seem like immature spam by a troll, which is exactly what Sukhvinder’s post is like. I feel very stupid now saying that Shirley should have kept the post up to pursue these allegations. That would certainly work with Andrew’s post, but this? This is just idle, immature spam. There’s nothing she can be charged for. It’s easy to see how Fergus suspected the posts were written by different people. The first one was taking its job seriously.
The shock had been almost physical; her breathing had become very fast and shallow, as it had been during the most excruciating parts of childbirth, when she had tried to lift herself over the pain, to disengage from the agonizing present.
Everyone would know by now. There was nowhere to hide.

OH – MY – GOD DR. JAWANDA REALLY DID HAVE A CRUSH ON BARRY. It’s a bit strange since every other woman in town lusts after her husband, but now that no one can have Barry she’ll just have to appreciate what she has.

Rowling did a very good job writing this. The meeting is written very well. It feels like a real meeting with real people. I can’t understand how a person can be so talented at writing conversations like this. And I actually like how it’s mixed with Dr. Jawanda’s personal thoughts and worries, because this is from Dr. Jawanda’s 3rd person POV and she can’t concentrate on the meeting due to these thoughts. (Although she shouldn’t give the post any thought. No one is going to take it seriously. Even Vikram didn’t. He was clearly only joking.)

And I do love the subtle bits of character:

She meant it as an explanation for her attendance, because she hated sitting at home alone with nothing to do, but Kay seemed to think that she was asking for more praise and gave it.

III

Andrew had spent hours deciding which clothes he ought to wear for his first day’s work at the Copper Kettle.

I thought it was very surprising that he would care at all about how he looks, but then I remembered that he wants to look good for Gaia who is working there, so it fits with how he’s been established so far. I was also surprised that he hadn’t had his first day at work yet it seemed so long ago that he was hired.

And we get more of Andrew’s thoughts about Gaia and preparing for the first day on the job when suddenly…..

…when his father returned from work in a state that Andrew had never seen before. Simon seemed subdued, almost disoriented.
“Where’s your mother?”
Ruth came bustling out of the walk-in pantry.
“Hello Si-Pie! How – what’s wrong?”
“They’ve made me redundant.”

BANG! SUDDEN SHOCKING PLOT DEVELOPMENT! This seems to be Rowling’s style for this book, and it makes me nervous. Granted it always excites and shocks me, but I would like some preparation.

It’s interesting to see Simon for once not angry about something bad that has happened to him. He’s just in a state of extreme sadness, and Andrew even feels guilty about what he caused. Granted, it doesn’t last very long, but still…

I think Rowling does a good job portraying all their emotions, as usual. Andrew’s reasoning of who did it and why makes sense from his standpoint. I suppose he and Fats will both be baffled when Fats denies it completely. Or perhaps Andrew will be angry at him for keeping secrets. And again I wonder whether Andrew is actually going to attempt to find secrets Howard is hiding to give to his father. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The narrative shifts very suddenly to the next day when Andrew is getting up and going to his first day of work. It flows very naturally, I can’t say more than I have before.

It was very interesting to see Howard’s inner thoughts and see why he refuses to lose weight. I couldn’t quite comprehend the thought process of a person like that, and I’m very glad Rowling included that part.

Also, I criticized in my last review the implausibility of how no one has noticed Sukhvinder’s scars. Well, I shouldn’t have spoken so soon.

Gaia was already pulling off her jeans beside the staff toilet when she saw Sukhvinder’s expression.
“Whassamatter, Sooks?” she asked.
The new nickname gave Sukhvinder the courage to say what she might otherwise have been unable to voice.
“I can’t wear this,” she whispered.
“Why?” asked Gaia. “You’ll look OK.”
But the black dress had short sleeves.
“I can’t.”
“But wh- Jesus,” said Gaia.
Sukhvinder had pulled back the sleeves of her sweatshirt. Her inner arms were covered in ugly crisscross scars, and angry fresh-clotted cuts traveled up from her wrist to her inner arm.

It’s such a dramatic, shocking and sad moment. And I like the tenderness of how Gaia speaks to her. Sukhvinder is unwilling to explain how she got the scars, but Gaia clearly has figured it out since she comes up with a cover story for Sukhvinder: she has eczema. And I find it a bit implausible that your average 16-year-old girl would have known that this is a real life disease. There may have been some explanation in parantheses that Gaia had heard Kay speak of children with eczema, which Rowling cut out due to feeling it unnecessary. (On a side-note: It’s really annoying seeing them get mad at Andrew for doing what he was told to do.)

Pretty much character details, feels real, as I’ve said before.

I really like the part of the end where Andrew has his first real conversation with Gaia. It seems that his plan to develop a relationship with her is working. It’s interesting to see a bit of a rift develop between Andrew and Fats. Even Andrew doesn’t really understand Fats and is developing resentment towards him.

And the first time reading this I didn’t notice at all the subtlety that runs over this. The two people who posted as “The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother” are right there in front of each other discussing the posts and who they think wrote them. And Gaia insults them both unknowingly. I love it.

IV

This section starts off detailing Colin Wall’s panic and anxiety in his belief that soon a post will be written about him. And I really have to wonder: What is his horrible secret that is driving him this insane with worry that it will be revealed?

But this abruptly ends as Colin notices something surprising in Howard’s café. We have reached the immediate present, with the previous section again basically leading into this one. And again I note how Rowling creates abrupt drama and builds up suspense in not revealing to us all the details immediately.

But the drama just keeps coming.

Colin deposited the leg of lamb in the fridge and marched upstairs, all the way to Fats’ loft conversion. Flinging open the door, he saw, as he had expected, a deserted room.
He could not remember the last time he had been in here. The floor was covered in dirty clothes. There was an odd smell, even though Fats had kept the skylight propped open. Colin noticed a large matchbox on Fats’ desk. He slid it open, and saw a mass of twisted cardboard stubs. A packet of Rizlas lay brazenly on the desk beside the computer.

He calls Tessa up and for some baffling reason she actually begins defending Fats and persecuting her husband.

“I told you we should have sent him to Paxton High! I knew you’d make everything he did all about you, if he went to Winterdown! Is it any wonder he rebels, when his every movement is supposed to be a credit to you? I never wanted him to go to your school!”
“And I,” bellowed Colin, jumping to his feet, “never bloody wanted him at all!”

OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK WHO SAYS THAT! This is so epic. But how can you deal with a teenager like Fats? Will they finally punish him for once? The answer is….. no. No, they don’t. Fats comes upstairs right on schedule and finds them in his room. He doesn’t care at all, doesn’t even appear annoyed.

And I told you a while back that I was going to stop telling you when a conversation and scene felt like it was real and the way things really would happen, and that I would tell you if there ever came a point when that did not happen. Well, that point has come. Fats swears at them, admits to having sex with Krystal, and yells at Colin “I’d rather be a little bastard than be you, you arsehole!” Tessa then somehow feels it is completely appropriate to yell at her husband to leave, as if he should not be involved in the disciplining process and has no right to confront his son. Colin, who is obsessed with doing this, rather than defending himself, just backs down and leaves. Fats then proceeds to call her and Colin selfish and swear at her more, and she just leaves.

To clarify, two parents have found that their sixteen-year-old son does drugs, has had sex with a girl, and he swears at them and calls them selfish and an asshole and tells at his father that he doesn’t want to be an asshole. And his parents just leave, deciding that none of this warrants grounding, no, it isn’t a big deal at all and they should do absolutely nothing to punish him. Be honest with me, you’ve all seen this happen in real life, haven’t you?

Rowling is trying to portray Fats’ philosophy of authencity as working, but it really wouldn’t. She doesn’t show the honest consequences of what would happen in a situation like this, and I’m not sure whether she is not promoting and encouraging Fats’s attitude. I would like to see what would happen if they grounded Fats and took away his drugs and his cigarettes.

A lot of people might get mad at me for what I am going to say, but I don’t think Colin’s punching him was child abuse. I think it is completely justified punishment.  Fats wishes that he had punched Cubby back, but Colin is bigger than him. He could tackle Fats to the floor and hold him down to win the fight.

And then Fats has a flashback demonstrating his selfishness and his hatred for his father, remembering himself deliberately hitting Colin in the face with a football for absolutely no justifiable reason.

A lot of people said they couldn’t stand reading this due to the characters all being horrible and unhappy and that it depressed them. This is the first time I agreed. None of this is funny or enjoyable at all. It’s just horrible. I hate Fats, I hate reading about him, I hate the thought that teenagers might attempt to be “authentic” like Fats, I hate the thought that parents might give in to him like Tessa. I HATE THE THOUGHT THAT THERE ARE ANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO LIVE LIKE THIS. Maybe that was the point. Maybe we were supposed to end up hating Fats and being disgusted with him. I don’t know. But that’s not the end, folks!

Fats’ fingers were clumsier than usual. Ash spilled onto the keyboard from the cigarette in his mouth as he brought up the Parish Council website. Weeks previously, he had looked up SQL injections and found the line of code that Andrew had refused to share. After studying the council message board for a few minutes, he logged himself in, without difficulty, as Betty Rossiter, changed her username to The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother, and began to type.

NO NO NO YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Seriously, you would think that when Howard had someone look into the security of the website, they would have fixed it against SQL injections. And this is just all too insane. I think this is plausible, actually, but it just feels so ridiculous. It feels like a children’s book, but the rest of the book is so adult.

V

We open with an inner monologue by Shirley. She believes Miles and Howard are wrong about the danger of leaving the “Ghost of Barry Fairbrother” posts online. While it’s nice to see her question whether she could be prosecuted for them, she does so for entirely the wrong reasons. She believes that she cannot be prosecuted because the posts are harmless gossip, which would, in reality, mean she can be prosecuted for them, because if they appeared less than gossip, she could request an investigation be made by the police, and if it turns out they are false, she would remove the post. This would only have worked for the first post, though, since the second one doesn’t actually describe illegal activities, and it is harmless gossip, although it’s hard to see how Shirley considers Andrew’s original post to be that.

It was interesting reading about Shirley’s emotional connection with “The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother” who they now assume is systematically targeting “pro-Fielders”.
After the garbage that was the last section, I’m glad to see the book seems to be getting back on track. I enjoyed how this all set up Shirley discovering Fats’s new post. And as soon as she does she calls the café to report the post to Howard.

The book does really make you feel that its characters are real. I was very disappointed when Colin overheard Dr. Jawanda’s call and ran to the computer, wishing Tessa had kept him away and waited for it to be deleted. But Colin reads it right away, and the fact that we get to read it for the first time at the same time as him makes us share his hurry to read it:

Fantasies Of A Deputy Headmaster
One of the men hoping to represent the community at Parish Council level is Colin Wall, Deputy Headmaster at Winterdown Comprehensive School. Voters might be interested to know that Wall, a strict disciplinarian, has a very unusual fantasy life. Mr. Wall is so frightened that a pupil might accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior that he has often needed time off work to calm himself down again. Whether Mr. Wall has actually fondled a first year, the Ghost can only guess. The fervor of his feverish fantasies suggests that, even if he hasn’t, he would like to.

I was disappointed to learn that this was his big secret. Fats didn’t really have anything on him. Why not actually accuse him of sexually harassing a student? That would be more likely to make people care. Andrew’s original post was detailing actual crimes, and Fats and Sukhvinder are just ruining the Ghost of Barry Fairbrother’s reputation!

And now for the first time in the story someone successfully realizes who has written one of the posts. As soon as Tessa reads the post, she immediately knows that her son wrote it.

Rowling really is back on track with portraying things the way they would happen. For the first time the author is the most obvious suspect. Andrew went out of his way to make sure his post wasn’t written in his post, and Simon has multiple people who he could have offended. Sukhvinder wrote hers flagrantly in her voice, but she’s such a nice girl no one would suspect her of doing that to her mother or of knowing how to hack into a website. Fats, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of authority-hating punk that would have written it, it was uploaded the day Colin punched him, and what’s more he flagrantly wrote it in his own voice. Read over that post again and see if it doesn’t have Fats’ voice all over it.

But then we go into Colin’s mind, getting a look at his thought processes. And

GOOD LORD THEY ARE DISTURBING, DEPRAVED, AND SHOCKING. Fats was right in his assumption! I liked Colin, I thought he was a good guy, and I still think he is actually but he IS a MENTAL PEDOPHILE! I feel a bit embarrassed saying that he had my vote for council, but the horrible thing is I’d still rather have him on council than Miles!

But then the scene randomly changes to Simon.

A few miles away, in Hilltop House, Simon Price was sitting at a brand-new computer in the sitting room. Watching Andrew cycle away to his weekend job with Howard Mollison, and the reflection that he had been forced to pay full market price for this computer, made him feel irritable and additionally hard done by.

How was Simon able to afford a computer if he’s out of work? And if it was from his last paycheck, Andrew basically has to provide for his whole family with the undoubtedly minimum wage he’s being paid, and Simon is spending the last money he has on A COMPUTER?!

He goes to the Parish Council web site to see if the post attacking him is still up and finds the new one attacking Colin.

He read it through twice and then, alone in the sitting room, he began to laugh. It was a savage triumphant laugh. He had never taken to that big, bobbing man with his massive forehead. It was good to know that he, Simon, had got off very lightly indeed by comparison.

Um, what? The post attacking Simon detailed criminal activities that cost him his job. The post attacking Colin doesn’t say that he actually sexually harassed any minors, and it just comes off as unfounded, childish allegations. How on earth does Simon think he got off lightly?

This whole scene with Simon is very strange. It doesn’t seem to have any point to it at all. Andrew isn’t there to overhear, and it ends with Ruth calling Shirley to tell her, despite the fact that Shirley already knows. It seems like it was written before Rowling decided Shirley would find out on her own but she forgot to cut out this scene later.

In fact, it cuts to Shirley telling Howard about the message. He’s angry at her for not taking it off, but the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere with them, so it makes for an odd conclusion.

VI

The next Parish Council meeting, the first since Barry had died, would be crucial in the ongoing battle over the Fields. Howard had refused to postpone the votes on the future of Bellchapel Addiction Clinic, or the town’s wish to transfer jurisdiction of the estate to Yarvil.

Finally, we are reading about the politics section of the plot, which is really the center of the plot. Granted, it isn’t the actual council meeting, it’s Parminder, Colin, and Kay discussing their strategies for defending the Fields the day before the meeting. But this is still the exact kind of scene I was expecting and anticipating. Politics-centered drama, and I wish more of the book was like this. I like how it combines the discussion of the political matters and uses it to give us further insights into who these people asre.

And these political issues as they effect matters in the story are important and I, at least, am very invested in. Rowling does a good job making us worry about the clinic staying open by telling us about Terri’s resolution to stay clean so she can keep her son.

And it is a big surprise to Colin that there is no one angry mob outside his door and no one is “demanding his arrest and incarceration” for an internet troll saying that he worries that the students will accuse him of sexually molesting them. The worst I could see happening is an investigation to see if he has child pornography. But it just comes off as some kid playing a joke, because that’s exactly what it is, and unlike his friend, Fats made no effort to pretend it was anything different. No police officer would take it seriously.

One note: In the brief appearance of Fats, it’s clear everything is completely normal and he is not punished at all. To every teenager reading this, place drugs in your room in a place where your parents will see them, tell your parents you have had sex with a girl, swear at them, and yell “I’d rather be a little bastard than be you, you asshole!” and see if they just leave without punishing you and everything is just same old, same old. And report back. I’ll be very eager to hear the results.

And Tessa has some good insight into Colin:

There was, in her opinion, no conviction behind his words. He wanted to believe what Barry had believed, and he wanted to defeat the Mollisons, because that was what Barry had wanted. Colin did not like Krystal Weedon, but Barry had liked her, so he assumed that there was more worth in her than he could see.

I feel somewhat embarrassed, having publicly declared (http://danielisreading.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/the-casual-vacancy-15/#comments) my support for Colin. But I still hold that he is running for unselfish reasons. And let’s face it, at least he’s planning on upholding the beliefs of somebody. That’s hard to come by in politics.

VII

Now the story is back to Andrew and his parents. In computer lab, Andrew can’t stop thinking about how his parents are going to move to Reading because Ruth’s brother-in-law has offered Simon a job. So yeah, Andrew will be out of the story soon. And he and Fats won’t be able to be friends anymore. And yet there is no mention of Andrew being sad about having to leave Fats and regretting that he wrote the post. But I still think his thoughts about his parents moving are realistic, and I like his bittersweet thought about how he has something in common with Gaia now though it doesn’t matter, and I think his general mood is conveyed well.

One of the major themes of this book is consequences for one’s actions to the extent that Rowling originally intended to title it “Consequences“. There have been great consequences to both Simon and Andrew’s actions, and neither one of them is happy about them.

It’s strange that we are given a brief conversation between Andrew and Fats in flashback with Fats discussing his worries about the post he wrote, without ever showing us Andrew finding out about Fats writing the post. I have a feeling Rowling wrote that originally, but cut it from the story. (She said she had to make a lot of sad cuts, including some of her favorite parts.)

I like how Andrew’s bond with Sukhvinder and Gaia is described, and how the story flows. The whole thing just has a bittersweet note and we can feel that not only is Andrew’s time in Pagford coming to an end, but so is the whole book.

And Fats’s reaction is so strange. He admitted to himself that Andrew is the most person he is most attached to, but he remains utterly casual and calm about Andrew leaving. I know that he is with Dane Tully at the moment, but he didn’t send Andrew any response to his telling him and you’d think a fist-bump and a “I’ll miss ya, Arf” wouldn’t be out of the question.

Fats was sure that Andrew would be nonplussed and hurt by his cool attitude, and he was glad of it. Fats did not ask himself why he was glad, or why a general desire to cause pain had become his overriding emotion in the last few days. He had lately decided that questioning your own motives was inauthentic; a refinement of his personal philosophy that had made it altogether easier to follow.

Well, that makes it so much worse. He was being authentic; it was his honest feeling to be calm and casual about Andrew leaving. His philosophy is just so self-centered it takes in absolutely no one’s feelings but his own. And we get more of his insight into his philosophy after he lies to Tessa about whether he wrote the post:

Perhaps it would have been more authentic to say yes, but he had preferred not to, and he did not see why he should have to justify himself.

So, to sum up Fats’s personal philosophy in one sentence: Be an asshole and do whatever the fuck you want. I don’t think Rowling is encouraging it, after all, which makes me baffled by her refusal to show the consequences in his fight with his parents.

(One small note: Fats thinks disdainfully about the victims of “The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother”, saying they brought it on themselves. This is certainly true for Simon, but Dr. Jawanda and Colin were exposed for emotions they hated having and couldn’t help.)

Fats is going to see Krystal at her house (Terri and Robbie are out). It feels natural how Fats and Krystal interact, and I like how Krystal’s attempts to make the house nice for him only made it all worse. And the part where Fats considers taking Tessa back her watch is a very important character moment for him. As symbolizing all his decisions about his life, he makes the wrong one.

But it’s noteworthy that it is six full sections into the part before we hear from her again. And it’s disappointing that we aren’t shown Krystal at Nikki’s house or indeed any immediate consequences of Obbo’s rape. But Krystal is planning on carrying out her plan to get pregnant by Fats by pretending to be using birth control.

He imagined Krystal pregnant with his child; the faces of Tessa and Cubby when they heard. His kid in the Fields, his flesh and blood. It would be more than Cubby had ever managed.
He climbed on top of her; this, he knew, was real life.

I don’t get shocked at these things. I’m just sort of stunned, unsure what to feel, just “this is happening”. I mean, these characters have become so real by now that this is shocking to see her plan actually being carried out and to anticipate the consequences.

VIII

Now it is the day of the council meeting. I like the little details and the character details, and I liked that Aubrey Fawley made his first appearance (not the one who started The Fields controversy in the 50s, who Rowling strongly implies is long dead). I liked the journalist who is suspicious of Howard about the council posts, and how Howard comes so close to guessing their author (he guesses one teenager instead of three).

And then the discussion of the issues begins. This is the section that I have been waiting for, the one I anticipated this book would be like before I bought it. I really enjoyed the “debate”. Even people who dislike politics should be interested in these issues, as Rowling has established them within the confines of her fictional universe, but this book is really about the people rather than their political ideas, and how their ideas come from who those people are. But we are clearly meant to side with the pro-Fielders and see the anti-Fielders as unpleasant, ignorant people, and this is a reasonable complaint to make against the novel.

But do I disagree with the side Rowling has indisputably taken? I don’t like to talk about politics at all. And to be honest, I regret ever deciding to do this. I don’t want to offend anyone with my take on anything.

I assume the clinic is helping people from the statistics Kay has shown and we certainly know Terri depends on it. And it would be hard to argue that Howard isn’t being ignorant about how people are by saying they should all just stop taking drugs. Yet it might make an inspiring catchphrase to get drug users to stop. “And, let’s face it. This is a problem with a simple solution. Stop taking the drugs.” But the Betty woman is wrong when she says “nobody makes them take drugs”. Obbo strongly encourages Terri, at the very least.

But as for the Fields movement, I don’t really see what difference it makes what city owns it, and the anti-Fielders actually make more sense than Dr. Jawanda in this one. To be honest, to me, it seems like a big deal over nothing.

“Oh, you think that they should take responsibility for their addiction and change their behavior?” said Parminder.
“In a nutshell, yes.”
“Before they cost the state any more money.”
“Exact-”
“And you,” said Parminder loudly, as the silent eruption engulfed her, “do you know how many tens of thousands of pounds you, Howard Mollison, have cost the health service, because of your total inability to stop gorging yourself?”
A rich red, claret stain was spreading up Howard’s neck into his cheeks.
“Do you know how much your bypass cost, and your drugs, and your long stay in hospital? And the doctor’s appointments you take up with your asthma and your blood pressure and the nasty skin rash, which are all caused by your refusal to lose weight?”

OH MY GOD YOU DO NOT DO THIS. Epic, absolutely epic. And yet, one reflects, she didn’t actually prove Howard is wrong, she just proved he is a hypocrite and in doing so exposed the hypocrisy of his supporters, who in defending him defend the users of the Bellchapel Clinic though they would never admit it, not even to themselves.

(Note: It’s interesting that Dr. Jawanda ends this section experiencing the same emotions that her daughter always is.)

IX

I like how Rowling briefly summarizes the consequences of the meeting in the “omniscient narrator” voice before beginning a scene with Howard, Shirley, and Maureen in the Mollison living room, and how she sets the mood for the scene, and shows Howard’s worries and his attempts to have Dr. Jawanda suspended from work (which apparently succeeded; I would have not pursued anything against Dr. Jawanda just out of respect for her having the courage to say that).

“District Council’s emailed me,” [Howard] told Maureen, “with a bunch of questions about the website. They want to hear what steps we’ve taken against defamation. They think the security’s lax.”

And finally Howard, spurred by the Council, is concerned about the security to the site. I honestly thought that they had taken care of all the security issues after the second post, and annoyingly they haven’t even now, as Shirley does not want to lose control of her website and due to her extreme ignorance about technology, believes the hacker got into the site by using people’s passwords, so she just sent e-mails to everyone telling them not to change their passwords.

The reason this annoys me is because it seems to be setting up a fourth “Ghost of Barry Fairbrother” message, and I honestly want it to have ended. It’s lost its effect and has just gotten silly at this point. It needs to end.

Rowling does a good job giving us insights into the characters, showing their continued conflicts, both internal and external.

And then the scene randomly changes to a third-person POV of Miles and illustrating his worries and his thoughts, and it then changes to him at home with Samantha at bedtime.

This scene contributes two important things to the plot:

  1. Establishes another incoming important change in the world’s continuity.

“How was work?” he asked, watching her undo her bra in the mirror.
Samantha did not answer immediately. She rubbed the deep red grooves in the flesh beneath her arms left by the tight bra, then said, without looking at Miles, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, actually.”
She hated having to say it. She had been trying to avoid doing so for several weeks.
“Roy thinks I ought to close down the shop. It’s not doing well.”

This is by far the least significant incoming change in the story. Samantha and her shop never played a big part in the novel, and Samantha herself’s role in the novel is basically unchanged. But Rowling thought it was worth mentioning, so I might as well mention it. I honestly think she should have cut it, though.

2. Furthering the “wives at war with their husbands” theme.

One of the major elements of this novel that Rowling listed in its offical blurb is “wives at war with their husbands”, and it is interesting to examine the relationships of the couples in this book. Mary was dissatisfied and still has issues with her now-deceased husband, Gavin knows Kay isn’t the woman for him and she’s angry that he won’t say it to her face, Simon sees his wife as a perfect punching bag and she mindlessly praises him, and Shirley and Howard, mutually horrible people and having been together for presumably a long time, have no apparent relationship problems. As with Colin and Tessa, but to a much greater extent, both Miles and Samantha find each other to be unsatisfactory spouses. First we get a look in Miles’s third-person POV where we see his dissatisfaction with his wife, wishing she would show him more support and comfort for him when he’s worrying about the election. And we get more of Samantha’s just general dissatisfaction with her husband, fantasizing about the young boy band singer.

She closed her eyes, climbed on top of him, and imagined herself riding Jake on a deserted white beach, nineteen years old to his twenty-one. She came while imagining Miles watching them, furiously, through binoculars, from a distant pedalo.

This is just physically disgusting to me at this point.

X

It’s the morning of the election, which is a very good place to end the part. So will voters go for the cunt, or the twat?

It starts with Dr. Jawanda going to Colin’s house to go vote with him. This scene does a very good job showing the consequences of the events that have taken place in their plotlines recently, and it does a good job conveying their emotions, true-to-character. Most of all, it feels like a scene written for a movie and conveys a very pleasant sense of finality. I like how skillfully Rowling manipulates our emotions. When they laugh, we share their general mood. And we somehow grow so attached to them that when they “left with the sense that they had got away with something“, we, too, somehow feel the same way.

And then we cut to Miles taking time off from work to go vote, and then the third-person POV switches to Samantha’s. We get her brief thoughts about the store (you really shouldn’t keep such information about a person’s job from them), then she and Miles go off to vote.

Samantha entered the booth and stared down at the two names: Miles Mollison and Colin Wall, the pencil, tied to the end of a piece of string, in her hand. Then she scribbled “I hate bloody Pagford” across the paper, folded it over, crossed to the ballot box and dropped it, unsmiling, through the slot.
“Thanks, love,” said Miles quietly, with a pat on her back.

Although most of the story is profoundly belonging to a novel by the multitude of internal monologues, as Rowling herself has stated, this and the scene with Colin and Jawanda really does feel like a movie scene, doesn’t it? And I can see how Rowling looks at this book as a comedy. But it comes genuinely from the characters, at least in this section.

We get a brief overview of our characters’ attitudes regarding the voting (whether they did it or not), which is very in-character for them, and in Gavin’s case, provides information about his character.

But then we stay with Gavin who is unwillingly going to dinner with Kay even and looking forward to seeing Mary to tell her that the insurance company is giving in. (It annoys me that insurance companies are  portrayed in this negative light, due to a Cracked article I read naming it as an unfair cliché. But I’m sure there are certainly people who have had these problems, and I don’t want to diminish them.)

From upstairs came the insistent crash of drums and a loud bass line. Gavin was surprised that the neighbors were not complaining. Kay saw him glance up at the ceiling and said, “Oh, Gaia’s furious because some boy she liked back in Hackney has started going out with another girl.”

If Andrew finds out about that on her Facebook page, he’ll certainly regret writing that post. Consequences, indeed.

Gavin sits at the table while Kay finishes dinner and tries to talk with him over the noise of Lexie’s drums. All my prior superlatives apply. And Kay really does a make good point about Parminder, which is exactly why no one would ever do that in real life. I like how Rowling realizes the ridiculousness of it and that Kay has become knowledgeable about the affairs of Pagford after moving there.

We also get a hint at a possible change in the book in that Gaia may be going to move to live with her son.

It all seems to be going well with Kay believing Gavin is interested in her, but then without any warning, conflict strikes. She realizes how much he isn’t interested in her. And he finally decides to be brave and do the right thing: be honest with her.

“I didn’t want this to happen,” Gavin said earnestly. “I didn’t mean it to. Kay, I’m really sorry, but I think I’m in love with Mary Fairbrother.”

This had to happen eventually. We knew it, and he knew it. And this was the best point. I like the way both of their feelings are portrayed, particularly the stating of how Gavin thought this would have happened.

On the pavement, he experienced a rush of elation, and hurried to his car. He would be able to tell Mary about the insurance company tonight, after all.

I can see this as a comedy. But I only hope this will end well for him, as it cannot for Kay.

This is an excellent place for the part to end, with the only way this storyline could have progressed. I think the entire final section is excellent in the degree of bittersweet finality it exudes.

And in the next part we shall discover the results of the election, I suppose. It is fifteen sections, but I will try to write it and put it up as fast as I can. Until then, goodbye.

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