Monday, March 11, 2013

No clouds in my storm

Let me start off by saying I've never read any Harry Potter books. It's just not my cup of tea. I've tried, I've also watched one movie and after the craze decided to try watching another one but just couldn't get through. So I gave up. But a glimpse was enough to know that this is a lady who can write and is not just a bored housewife with a desire for the other side. So when the announcement of the adult fiction came up, I decided to give it a go. Now, after coming to the end of this tale, I can only say one monosyllabic word: Meh.
If I were a ten year old and interested in magic, Harry Potter would definitely be my bible, so I understand why people are crazy about Harry. Don't necessarily understand why adults go bonkers over it, though. I do, however, respect the amount of imagination this lady must have to conjure up such magical details and the mind it takes to come up with them. And despite lacking the magical, her fictional town of Pagford is just as full of details as Harry (probably) is. I say probably because I am not a well-Harry-read person.
Here's the official, short description: When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? 
The first feeling I got was that Ms. Rowling has trouble staying under 500 page mark. She's used to taking characters and giving them a space of seven books in which we can get to know them and their history and in which they can develop and unroll like a magic carpet. Here she had one book and (just like her fantasy series) many characters. Those characters needed stories and traits which she felt could only be displayed with background stories. Countless background stories told in brackets and retrospect. And if it isn't an epic historical novel in the likes of Ken Follett, it really has no business being so long. And giving us countless petty little problems that we actually encounter daily in our lives.
What Pagford could look like, at least in my mind. (image via carbon-based-ghg.blogspot.com)
She is a master of the craft. There is no denying that. She is fantastic at telling a story. I could see the little town of Pagford as vividly as you can possibly imagine a small English town with "just the right amount" (basically about 20 too many) of weirdos, sluts, cheats, self-absorbed men and ice-cold women, hateful mothers-in-law, acne-prone teenagers pining for the prettiest new girl in town and life-saving social workers as a small town can possibly handle without spontaneously combusting. There's even a(n almost) Bollywood star thrown in for good measure. No wonder I needed a guide for all the characters and a chart to go with it. 
(the-casual-vacancy.wikia.com)
But every chapter of every part of the book is well written. I was only truly bored and my mind was happily fleeting when she was explaining the Pagford-Fields-Yarvil connection. Pagford thinks it's better than Fields where the methadone clinic and the poor people live so they want it to be officially part of Yarvil. There. I did it in one sentence. The problem, however, was, that at the end of each of these chapters I wasn't sure whether I had gained something from them. Was what I just read crucial to the story? Did I have to know that? There were so many of these little tellings that in the end I didn't know what to think. Is she stringing me along, is she stretching it, was she trying to make it into a tv series? I don't have a definite answer, except that Rihanna's Umbrella will never be the same for me again. I also have a favorite character, despite the fact that I didn't quite like her, I too, wanted to hug her. I think Krystal is the reason I give this book 3 stars, despite absolutely loathing the white trash British English. Made me shudder. It's even worse than the white trash American English.
There are so many things in this book that I can't possibly write a short review although I am highly and extensively disappointed in the book. Most of the characters I did not give a tiny rat's ass about (forgive my language), I wasn't biting nails to see what will happen to them. And after wrapping up the story, I have two concerns. First is that this book does not have equally distributed cliff hangers (and not that many in the first place) to make a gripping TV show. Second is that despite its description this book is still young adult oriented. And possibly even meant for young adults. The people who push, pull and turn this story are the teenagers, not their parents. Not the election or the casual vacancy but the delinquency and imagination of the kids and the negligence of their parents. So basically it's Harry Potters for those who hate magic, witchcraft and fantasy.

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