The Casual Vacancy

Released on September 27, 2012, The Casual Vacancy is “blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising” and J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel outside of the Harry Potter world. The Casual Vacancy is set in a suburban town in the West Country of England called Pagford, where a man named Barry Fairbrother dies at an early age, leaving the town in shock. The major themes of this book include class, politics, and social issues. The paperback version of this novel was released on July 23, 2013. The Casual Vacancy was adapted for a miniseries in 2015.

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Plot Summary

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the 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 façade 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?

History

The Casual Vacancy was published worldwide by the Little, Brown Book group. The novel was the fastest-selling in the UK in three years. It became the 15th best-selling book of 2012 during its first week of release, and in three weeks the book’s total sales topped one million copies in English in all formats. The book won the Best Fiction category in the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards and was hailed by TIME Magazine.

Rowling first had the idea on a flight to the US while on tour for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rowling later joked about how this was similar to her conception of Harry Potter on a train to London. “Obviously I need to be in some form of vehicle to have a decent idea,” she said. “And I thought: local election! And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It’s a rush of adrenaline, it’s chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this. So that’s how I know.”

Rowling made it very clear that the novel was adult literature. Critics feared that children would be drawn to the book because of the author, despite it being inappropriate for a young age. Rowling responded, “I’m a writer, and I will write what I want to write.” The novel deals with many adult themes, such as drugs, sex, infidelity, abuse, self-harm, and suicide. For two years, the working title was Responsible, until Rowling came across the term “casual vacancy,” which in politics means a situation in which a seat in a deliberative assembly is vacated during that assembly’s term. They arise through the death, resignation, or disqualification of a sitting member. In the novel’s case, Barry Fairbrother was a member of the Parish Council, whose sudden death causes a casual vacancy and therefore an election to fill his space.

There were several promotional events for the book, including appearances by Rowling at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 6, Lincoln Center in New York City on October 16, and the Lennoxlove Book Festival in Scotland on November 2. The Lincoln Center event was surrounded by controversy, when tickets were sold a day before they were supposed to and resold the next day, thus double-booking the seats. After a few days of speculation as to whose tickets would be honored, the event was moved to the larger David H. Koch Theater and all tickets were honored. Rowling was interviewed, read an excerpt from the book, and signed a copy of the book for everyone in the audience. Most of the MuggleNet staff was in attendance and agree that it was a highlight of their lives.

Summary

This summary is from Wikipedia. Warning: Contains spoilers.

The book is split into seven parts, and features varying narratives. Each section is headed by a definition from Charles Arnold-Baker’s book Local Council Administration. The first part depicts the aftermath of the death of local Pagford Parish Councillor, Barry Fairbrother, who suffers a burst aneurysm in the car park of a local golf course. The inhabitants of the town share the news with their friends and relatives, and chaos ensues. The problem arises in deciding whether local council estate “The Fields” (which includes methadone rehabilitation clinic, Bellchapel) should remain as part of Pagford, or instead join local city Yarvil.

After the election date is announced, the children of those who are standing for election decide to make damaging posts on the Parish Council online forum. Andrew, son of Simon Price, is the first person to do so, operating under the name “The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother” and informing everyone that his father had bought a stolen computer. Sukhvinder (who, like Andrew, learns about hacking in ICT class) follows, posting that her mother, Dr. Parminder Jawanda, was in love with Barry. Thirdly, Fats Wall posts, claiming his adoptive father, Cubby, a headmaster, suffers from obsessive fear of having molested a child without any memory of the fact. Finally, in a desperate attempt to relieve the guilt weighing on him for costing his father his job, Andrew confides in Simon and posts that Council leader, Howard Mollison, is having an affair with his business partner Maureen. Howard’s son, Miles Mollison, is the winning candidate, much to the displeasure of his wife, Samantha, who confesses she no longer loves him, only to eventually reconcile.

Another focus of the novel is the traumatic life of Krystal Weedon. 16-year-old Krystal lives in “The Fields” with her mother Terri who is a prostitute and heroin addict and 3-year-old brother Robbie. Social worker Kay is determined for Terri to stop her drug use and take responsibility for the care of Robbie. However, Terri relapses and her drug dealer Obbo rapes Krystal. Spurred on to start a family elsewhere, Krystal has unprotected sex with Fats in an attempt to become pregnant. It is during one of these instances that Robbie runs away from the pair in a park, eventually falling and drowning in a river, despite Sukhvinder’s attempt to save him. Krystal is so distraught that she commits suicide by taking a heroin overdose, the novel culminating with their funeral.

Character Guide

The Casual Vacancy is uniquely told from an omniscient point of view. The Telegraph published a guide to the book’s many main characters. Warning: Contains spoilers.

  • Barry Fairbrother, a member of the Parish Council who was from “The Fields.” He ran the school’s girls’ rowing team and was particularly fond of Krystal Weedon. It is his death that rocks the community of Pagford.
  • Mary Fairbrother, widow of Barry Fairbrother.
  • Howard Mollison, leader of the Parish Council, owner of a delicatessen and married to Shirley. He is obese and suffers a heart attack after Andrew’s accusations that he has had an affair with business partner Maureen.
  • Shirley Mollison, wife of Howard Mollison and mother of Miles. She has an absolute sense of devotion to Howard and all of his endeavors, until it comes to light that her husband may have had an affair with his business partner Maureen.
  • Miles Mollison, lawyer who works in the same lawyer buffet than Gavin; he is the son of Howard and Shirley, brother of Pat, and is married to Samantha. Miles runs for and eventually wins the council election.
  • Samantha Mollison, wife of Miles and owner of a bra shop. Samantha is shown to lose interest in Miles, kissing sixteen year-old Andrew Price and fancying “Jake,” a member of one of her daughter’s favorite boybands. She is disliked by Miles’ mother, Shirley, and appears to have an alcohol problem.
  • Krystal Weedon, resident of “The Fields” and love interest of Fats Wall. She suffers a traumatic childhood, through the drug-addiction of her mother and is raped by her mother’s dealer. She commits suicide following the death of her brother, Robbie.
  • Terri Weedon, a heroin-addict and prostitute. She is the mother of Krystal and Robbie and resides in “The Fields.” She attempts to rehabilitate through the Bellchapel clinic.
  • Colin “Cubby” Wall, Deputy Headteacher of the local comprehensive. He considers himself to be a close friend of Barry’s and stands for election. This is later marred by anonymous accusations made by his adoptive son, Fats, that he is afraid of being accused of molesting a child. This considerably worsens his obsessive compulsive disorder, which leads him to believe he has committed crimes that in fact he hasn’t.
  • Tessa Wall, wife of Cubby and adoptive mother of Fats. She is the school’s guidance counselor and has regular meetings with Krystal Weedon, although she later disapproves of her relationship with her son.
  • Stuart “Fats” Wall, son of Colin and Tessa, Andrew’s best friend and popular at school. He is shown to bully Sukhvinder and begins a sexual relationship with Krystal Weedon. The novel ends with him isolated from his friends and family due to his partial responsibility for Robbie’s death and the comments made on the council website, as well as kissing Gaia, Andrew’s love interest.
  • Andrew Price, son of Simon and Ruth and Fats’ best friend. He is shown to develop a romantic interest in Gaia Bawden, who is new to his school, eventually securing a weekend job in Howard’s delicatessen to be around her.
  • Simon Price, husband of Ruth Price and Andrew and Paul’s father. He decides to stand for election so he can receive bribes and is shown to physically and verbally abuse his children and his wife, but in the last days his behave improves, stopping the abuse and bonds with his son.
  • Kay Bawden, a social worker from London and mother of Gaia. She moves to Pagford to be with Gavin and works closely with Krystal and Terri for a while.
  • Gavin Hughes, a lawyer and Kay’s boyfriend, although he is shown to resent her throughout the novel. He claims he was Barry’s best friend and eventually confesses his love for his widow, Mary.
  • Gaia Bawden, Kay’s daughter. Described as attractive and the romantic interest of many pupils at her school, notably Andrew. She befriends Sukhvinder and detests Pagford, mostly because she knows Gavin wasn’t really interested in her mom and because she was dating a guy named Marco De Luca; she wants to move to Reading to be with her father. She eventually kisses Fats Wall, much to the disappointment of Andrew and Sukhvinder, but she regrets that and rebound with both in Krystal’s funeral.
  • Parminder Jawanda, doctor and mother of Sukhvinder. She is a member of the Parish Council and supporter of keeping “The Fields,” although her motive is suggested to be because she was in love with Barry.
  • Sukhvinder Jawanda, daughter of Parminder. She is shown to be bullied by Fats and self-harms. She was a member of the rowing team along with Krystal Weedon, and eventually risks her life in order to attempt to save Krystal’s brother, Robbie.
  • Vikram Jawanda, husband of Parminder Jawanda and father of Sukhvinder and her siblings. He is a heart surgeon and had performed Howard’s triple heart bypass.
  • The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother was the secret identity of some Pagford’s teens (sometimes without the knowledge of who was the other) who use the old account of Barry Fairbrother in the Pagford council’s forum in order to reveal secrets of some members. The identity of the Ghost was: 1) Andrew Price, who reveals that his dad, Simon Price, furnishes his house with stolen furniture and takes up extra painting jobs without notifying his bosses; 2) Sukhvinder Jawanda, who reveals her mother, Parminder is in love with Barry; 3) Fats Wall, who reveals his father, Colin Wall, the Deputy Headmaster of Fats’s school, fears that a pupil might accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior; 4) Andrew Price again, who reveals the affair of Howard Mollison and his businesses partner Maureen.
Television Adaptation

On December 3, 2012, BBC One and BBC Drama commissioned an exclusive adaptation of The Casual Vacancy from the Blair Partnership, which represents Rowling. Rowling will work closely with the project. There are three one-hour episodes planned.

 

Casting Call

As originally reported on MuggleNet:

Casting Director Lucy Bevan (Pirates of The Caribbean, Nanny McPhee Returns, Snow White and the Huntsman) is searching for young actors to play a number of roles in new BBC and HBO television series, The Casual Vacancy, based on a novel by JK ROWLING.

Filming from 16 June through to the end of August, The Casual Vacancy is to be directed by Jonny Campbell (Shameless, Eric & Ernie), with Ruth Kenley-Letts producing. The book is adapted by Sarah Phelps.

If you are interested in any of the roles below, please email emmagunnery@gmail.com with your name, age, headshot and details of any availability conflicts, as well as information of any previous acting experience by 4pm Wednesday, 9th April.

Fats (Male) 

15 – 16. Thin, sallow face. Funny, laconic and nonchalant. Best friends with ARF. Disrespectful of what he sees as loser parents. Pleased with himself, smokes weed. Light West Country accent.

Playing age – 15 – 16

Appearance – White

Arf (Male) 

15-16. Has a bad complexion, uncomfortable about the way he looks. Suffers at the hands of his horrible father. Keeps his pain to himself. Devotedly in love with beautiful GAIA. Light West Country accent.

Playing age – 15 – 16

Appearance – White

Paul (Male) 

12. Younger brother of ARF. Terrified of his father, and always stands to attention when he comes into the room. Arf looks after him when their father is bullying him. Light West Country accent.

Playing age – 12

Appearance – White

Krystal (Female)

15/16. Cocky, all swagger, sass and a foul mouth. She also has the ability to melt your heart. Krystal is brave and a fighter; she is the sole carer of her heroin addict mum (Terri) and her younger brother Robbie (aged 5). A terrible fate awaits Krystal. Light West Country accent.

Playing age – 15-16

Appearance – White

Source

 

Cast and Crew

Cast

Michelle Austin – Kay Bawden
Marie Critchley – Ruth Price
Monica Dolan – Tess Wall
Keeley Forsyth – Terri Weedon
Sir Michael Gambon – Howard Mollison
Richard Glover – Simon Price
Keeley Hawes – Samantha Mollison
Rufus Jones – Miles Mollison
Rory Kinnear – Barry Fairbrother
Abigail Lawrie – Krystal Weedon
Simon McBurney – Colin “Cubby” Wall
Julia McKenzie – Shirley Mollison

Crew

Directed

Jonny Campbell

Writing Credits

J.K. Rowling … (novel)
Sarah Phelps … (screenplay)

Produced

Ruth Kenley-Letts

Casting

Lucy Bevan

Production Design

Sami Khan

Costume Design

Rhona Russell

Visual Effects

Tony Slater-Ling … director of photography

Editorial Department

Tom Hemmings

 

Production Notes

The series is being produced by Bronte Film and Television, the independent production company run by Neil Blair and J.K. Rowling. Production began on July 7, 2014, in South West England.

 

Release Information

According to IMDb, The Casual Vacancy was adapted for a miniseries, working with BBC One and HBO for one season, consisting of three episodes. The production began late 2014 and on February 15, 2015, the first of three episodes premiered in the United Kingdom and on April 29, 2015, it premiered in the United States. As of March 1, 2015, the miniseries concluded with its finale.

Exclusive Fan Report on Promotional Event

A fan’s dream: Meeting J.K Rowling at Lennoxlove Book Festival
By Laura (Snapescape)

 

Yesterday, November 2, 2012, I was lucky enough to be one of the few to meet J.K. Rowling as she attended a small book festival on the outskirts of Edinburgh, during the last stop of her The Casual Vacancy promotional tour.

The setting couldn’t have been more perfect. Set in an illuminated 13th century house estate, complete with gargoyles peering down at us from the large iron gates, I couldn’t help but think of Hogwarts. It was magical.

After having gaped and awed at the surrounding building, we made our way towards the garden, where we would witness J.K. Rowling in all her splendor. Well, I say that, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to get tickets to the actual event, so I had to slum it with all the other peasants in a nearby marquee and watch Jo on the big screen. Not that I’m complaining though; we had a great time.

Muriel Gray, Scottish journalist, was the interviewer for the evening, and as she welcomed Jo on stage, there was an eruption of cheers from the peasant tent. Throughout the evening, Jo was up to her usual standard of being witty, funny, and just generally a joy to listen to. She is so refreshingly frank and open, willing to share past experiences with the audience, like how she was bullied as a child and how this made her understand and empathize with Sukhvinder’s problem of self-image in the novel.

When discussing the process of writing The Casual Vacancy, she commented on how liberated she felt about not having to commit to deadlines. Gray was quick to mention how the concept of the book would really make a great series, to which Jo proceeded to jokingly scold her and tell her not to give anyone any ideas! However, she did say that she still followed the same plan of structure as Harry Potter: writing page after page of background stories for her characters.

She even wrote passages in the first person narrative of her characters, in order to get a better feel for their voice. During the Q&A session, when asked what advice she would give budding authors, she simply answered “structure,” explaining that planning is everything.

Probably one of the most iconic quotes of the night was spurred from a question regarding the change of genre in The Casual Vacancy. Jo mentioned how you can’t follow the same rules in fantasy as you can in other genres, there are certain things you don’t do, and concluding, “You don’t have sex near unicorns.” We’ll bear that piece of advice in mind, Jo.

There were numerous funny incidents during the evening, of which my personal favorite was the following: When Jo decided to read a passage from the disastrous dinner scene in the book and asked to be handed her glasses, she was unfortunately handed the wrong pair, exclaiming, “These aren’t mine!” Following this, she decided to try on Muriel Gray’s but alas, they wouldn’t do. Jo then suggested going through all the audience members in order to find the perfect pair! She must have been remembering that important Ollivander wisdom: The glasses choose the reader, Harry. Or something along those lines…

Because my memory is patchy due to the emotions of the evening, I will just casually mention a few random facts about Jo that we learnt during the evening: Jo is not attracted to younger boys (not even Chris Hemsworth, who she hasn’t heard of, incidentally), her biggest inspiration as a writer is French novelist Colette, and her favorite character to write about in the Harry Potter series was Albus Dumbledore.

Following the screening, I joined the queue for the book signing. Snaking around inside the beautiful house adorned with many portraits on the wall that were unfortunately static, the queue seemed to be the length of at least basilisks. Eventually, we entered the aptly named Great Hall, where Jo was signing the books. I don’t think I could really ever describe the surreal sensation I felt standing in front of her. I thanked her for the Potter books and she told me I was very welcome. She then looked up at me from signing the book, peeking over her reading glasses, and noticed the Alohomora! T-shirt I had on, saying “I like your T-shirt.”

Life = made.

MuggleNet's Reviews

Read MuggleNet’s Casual Vacancy reviews.

Jo Succeeds in Adult Author Debut” — By Caleb Graves | November 2, 2012 (Mostly spoiler free and positive review)

The Quality Vacancy” — by hpboy13 | October 6, 2012 (Mostly spoiler free and negative review)

Publishing Information

Literary Agency

Little, Brown Book Group announced that the new novel for adults by J.K. Rowling is entitled The Casual Vacancy. The book was published worldwide in the English language in hardback, e-book, unabridged audio download, and on CD on Thursday, September 27, 2012.

Little, Brown Book Group: Three times winner of the KPMG Publisher of the Year Award, in 1994, 2004, and 2010, Little, Brown has an award-winning publishing programme across eight imprints: Little, Brown, Abacus, Virago, Sphere, Orbit, Atom, Piatkus, and Hachette Digital. Little, Brown Book Group has been a member of the Hachette UK group since 2006. Further information can be found at www.littlebrown.co.uk.

Publisher

Hachette UK is the most diversified book publishing group in the UK, with a unique policy of encouraging its publishing houses to operate autonomously. Amongst its houses and imprints are Hachette Children’s Books, Headline Publishing Group, Hodder & Stoughton, Hodder Education, John Murray, Little, Brown Book Group, Octopus Publishing Group, Orion Publishing Group, Sceptre, Virago, and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, with international publishers and distributors Hachette Australia, Hachette New Zealand, Hachette India, Hachette Ireland, and Hachette Middle East. Further information can be found at www.hachette.co.uk.

ISBN 9781408704202 (hardback) price: £20.00
ISBN 9781405519229 (e-book) price: £11.99
ISBN 9781405519212 (audio download) price: £20.00
ISBN 9781405519205 (CD) price: £30.00

ISBN 9780751552867 (paperback) price: £7.99 – Released on July 18, 2013

Promotional Events

Shortly after announcing the release of The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling announced that she would be embarking on a book tour across Europe and the United States. Rowling’s first stop was in London at the Southbank Centre before traveling to The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in London. Finally, she spoke at the Lennoxlove Book Festival in her home country of Scotland, which was the only appearance she made there to discuss The Casual Vacancy.

J.K. Rowling made a rare public appearance in the United States to promote The Casual Vacancy at the Lincoln Center in New York City. This appearance was the only one in the United States to promote her new book. This was a highly anticipated event, and thousands of people showed up to see and hear J.K. Rowling discuss her new voyage into writing for adults.

JK Rowling proudly holds copy of "The Casual Vacancy"

J.K. Rowling proudly holds copy of “The Casual Vacancy”