The Casual Vacancy

When Barry Fairbrother 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 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 town’s 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? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.


Barry and his two besties Don and Permione are the guiding force of their town of Pagford.  Barry has the unique ability to sooth the backbiting and drama that plagues the small town simply by walking into a room, and his two friends follow wherever he heads.

Then Barry’s overly large heart can’t handle his constant need to help people, and he dies of a heart attack.

The repercussions start small.  In their funeral addressed, Don and Permione declare that they will be sprinkling Barry’s ashes across the town.  The Asthma Rights Group takes exception to this and convince the Sustainability Council that it would be considered pollution.  Instead his ashes are placed in a vase in the entry to the City Council’s office, which was where Barry spent most of his time as the head councilmember.

Don and Permione, bitter about not fulfilling Barry’s last wishes, convince the rest of the City Council to end the funding towards the Asthma Rights Group and Sustainability Council.  The motion passes by one vote in the preliminary vote, but the two interest groups know that if the elect an official sympathetic to their cause to fill the vacancy created by Barry’s death, the final vote will be tied and they will keep their funding.

As the election gets started, battle lines are quickly drawn.  The entire town gets involved.  The younger generation all support anything that Barry, their favorite adult, would have wanted.  Husbands, always secretly wishing that they could have been as awesome as Berry also take his side.  The wives and teachers, who are aware of the negative outcomes of ending the two special interest groups take the opposite side.

The divorce rate skyrockets, followed quickly by small crime as overexcited teenagers bash in the school windows and graffiti Team Berry across town buildings.

Even with the destruction of the town, the election day is not moved up.  By the day before, most of the families are not on speaking terms, and the town population is half of the number when Berry died.

The interest groups are crafty, and the night before the election they bribe the local theater to run a marathon showing of all 8 movies of the young adult’s favorite series.  Many of the young adults are still in the theater, sleeping through movie #6 when the vote begins.

This lack of support for the ash-scattering favorable candidate is just enough to tip the election to the interest group’s candidate, and their funding is secured.  But a few of the young adults had taken a break from the viewing to sneak into the City Council Office, snatch the vase, then drive around town chucking handfuls of ash right and left.

The Asthma Group and Sustainability Council are outraged, but decide against vacuuming up all the ash they find.  They let the wind slowly scatter it.  They didn’t want Berry’s ghost to haunt them.

Don and Permione decide to move to London, tired of all the small town politics, and are never heard from again.


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