The Casual Vacancy again: strength of character

the book:

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

published 2012    part 2 chapter VI

‘Ah, yes,’ said Howard, beaming. His new weekend waiter had let him down a few days previously; thrown over the café for Yarvil and a supermarket job. ‘Yes, yes. Fancy waitressing, do you? We’re offering minimum wage – nine to half-past five, Saturdays – twelve to half-past five, Sundays. Opening two weeks from today; training provided. How old are you, my love?’ She was perfect, perfect, exactly what he had been imagining: fresh-faced and curvy; he could just imagine her in a figure-hugging black dress with a lace-edged white apron. He would teach her to use the till, and show her around the stockroom; there would be a bit of banter, and perhaps a little bonus on days when the takings were up. Howard sidled out from behind the counter and, ignoring Sukhvinder and Andrew, took Gaia by the upper arm, and led her through the arch in the dividing wall. There were no tables and chairs there yet, but the counter had been installed and so had a tiled black and cream mural on the wall behind it, which showed the Square in Yesteryear.

observations: Three young people are applying for jobs in the new café in the Square. The portrayal of teenagers in this book is one of JK Rowling’s major achievements – you may have thought Harry Potter and the wizards and witches were unrealistic, but their feelings were always well done, and there are 5 young people in this book, trying to manage without the help of wands and spells. JKR does their relationships with each other, and with their parents and teachers, very well. They are (like the adults in the book) real people, not heroes and villains, they just behave well or badly, and they can change from one to another. Bullying, depression and self-harm are all dealt with sympathetically and convincingly.

The story is not tied up too tightly on the last page, there are loose ends, and that very rare feeling after a book finishes where you can truly imagine how the lives within will go on, for better and for worse. There is room for a little optimism at the end, but some of the wrong things are going to carry on regardless. And who’d have thought a book could leave you unable to hear Rihanna’s Umbrella without thinking of Krystal forevermore.

Links up with: the book feaured earlier in the week. The murderee here wasn’t going to wear her maid’s uniform any more.

The picture is of an English waitress in Paris, was taken by
Jorge Royan, and can be found on Wikimedia Commons.