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Author Topic: First Impressions (Warning: Spoilers!)  (Read 3367 times)

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October 06, 2012, 09:14:28 PM

merrythought

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First Impressions
Reactions to The Casual Vacancy


Warning:  Spoilers!


I've finished reading the novel, and wonder if you have, too.  What do you think of it?  What aspects of the book interested you the most?  Do you have anything to praise, ponder, or criticize?

I'll go first.  One thing I was looking forward to was the "blackly comic" tone promised before the novel came out.  I love the form of tragicomedy; it seems like my favorite books and plays tend to  fall into this category; I adore Chekhov's plays and Shakespeare's late romances, and lately have greatly enjoyed the novels of Kate Atkinson.  But I have to say, while I couldn't mistake the satire in The Casual Vacancy, I didn't think it very funny at all.  I laughed 3 or 4 times, and that was it.  I found Shirley's snootiness and self-absorption to be consistently amusing; and the song played at Barry's funeral cracked me up - a truly zany moment!  (And of course, provides a counterpoint to the last moment of the book, which obviously had a very different tone in the reuse of the song).  But I didn't find much else to laugh at; I thought it, overall, quite an earnest book.  And of course there is nothing wrong with an earnest book; it's just that I expected something a bit different.  However, perhaps some of you found the book to be more comic than I did; I would love to read your thoughts about that. 

I liked how all of the characters were a blend of good and bad, but I thought parents came off as awful for the most part; the book has a lot more empathy for the kids.  Until the end, my heart bled most for Sukhvinder... even more than Krystal, who I saw as a fighter; I thought if she could get through, she would be all right; I could see her settling down into a good life as an adult, if she had continued to have help through her teen years.   Sukhvinder, though, seemed more trapped because she turned her pain inward.  But I guess what it ultimately came down to was that Sukhvinder had support at home (eventually) and Krystal didn't.   I've noticed in real life that that's what often makes the difference. 

So, those are just a few of my reactions; there are certainly many more things to respond to.  Please tell us your thoughts in this thread!


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October 07, 2012, 04:16:42 AM
Reply #1

Armoracia

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I just finished the book this morning. I have to admit, I must agree with you. While I did laugh once or twice, it was almost surprised out of me. Not at all like getting the giggles during HP or even grinning through sections. Black? yes, quite. Comedy? not so much.

At first, I found myself falling into the world. I had forgotten just how vivid JKR's writing can be on a first-read, and the opening scenes of the book  - the part up until she starts backtracking in time - were pretty realistically vivid. She really is good with the word-painting.

However, unlike any other of her books, this one seemed, at times, to be a chore to read. Even the camping scenes didn't affect me this way. I had to put the book down several times and walk away from it for a while. It was better near the end.

I also agree about Sukhvinder - i definitely thought we were going to see at least a serious suicide attempt if not an actual suicide. I didn't see what really happened coming, although it didn't really surprise me, i guess. i knew that the tone of this book was so dark that Krystal really didn't have a chance. I just didn't envision it taking Robbie as well, or that his death would be the catalyst.

Really, the whole thing smacked very strongly to me of Soap Opera.

That being said, i am about to reread it with an eye to actually picking it apart to discuss :)
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October 07, 2012, 05:18:17 AM
Reply #2

HealerOne

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I have discussed with some others that they had difficulty with wading through the first part of the book - the set up part. They felt like it was disjointed and leapt from person to person too much - making it difficult to figure out who the characters were. I personally didn't have a problem with it - but as my first reading was using my Kindle I had to really concentrate on getting right who was who because it was difficult to 'flip' back and reread who each character was. That said by the time I got into the middle of the book I was so engaged with the characters that I didn't seem to have a problem keeping track of who was who!

I too am re-reading now - paying closer attention to how JKR wove the stories of each of the characters together and how what one character does influences what another does. The Point of View (PoV) she is writing from is very interesting. She doesn't have one character who takes the 'all-knowing' position but instead each of the characters presents his own PoV in the real time within the story. There is a small amount of narration which is helpful -  like in the explanation of the history of how the Fields came about.  I think that the way she writes from each characters PoV really helps to build the characters faster than just describing them and what happens to them.

I've noticed a bunch of other stuff on my second read but I will talk about them some other time. So glad to have this thread so we can start off the discussion!
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October 07, 2012, 08:54:14 PM
Reply #3

JaneMarple9

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First off, if this hadn't been written by Jo, and from all the previews, I feel pretty sure that I wouldn't have picked it up. It's a book with a ton of dark subjects - drug abuse, swearing (a lot of it) and bullying are just the start of it. But I was pleasantly surprised how I managed to read it ... not exactly enjoyable, but readable!
Like others said, for me there wasn't many "comedy" moments. But I liked the way how almost every character was affected by Fairbrother's death in some way. The story did take some time to get going, but some of the characters were appealing, especially Sukhvinder. Kystal was appealing in a different way, she could have made something of herself if she'd had the right guidance. I thought most of the teenagers were more adult than their parents, the grown-ups were a little pathetic in my opinion.

"There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with a really big library"
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October 10, 2012, 07:31:11 AM
Reply #4

atschpe

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Seeing how late I am posting here, might already state how much I had to put the book down. It surely isn't a book that flips the pages for you, making you read into the dead of night or sneaking off for a quick chapter because you just have to know what'll happen. On the contrary, at times part of me did not want to continue – not because it isn't a good book, but because some of the themes were very close to memories and experiences I had. But no, I didn't have such a dark childhood as depicted here, though I did brush up to somethings that pop up in the narrative (fellow students cutting themselves, school bullies, sexual power play, ego-driven not-wanting-to-see)

So, a big credit to Rowling for not shying away from showing blatantly how it can be. She doesn't hide from using the coarse language, nor of describing thread bare scenes without flinching ot prettying it up. She could have cut away when something really got hairy, but that is exactly what she is commenting on: how society likes to close their eyes when it gets too "real".

What really interested me, is that Rowling did not develop a main character. There is no attachment to a person or family, so it is up to us to not only balance everyone we get to know, but also to judge/evaluate as we take sides. With a clear main character it is easy to take their point of view and see the world through their eyes, but as a reader she denies us this easy way out. We have to work here, not sit back and watch through a little window. A very strong tool!
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 10, 2012, 09:15:40 AM
Reply #5

bemused

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I didn't like the book at all, to be honest, and I don't even think it's particularly well-written.  Too many long involved metaphors which don't really work, too many ponderous sentences which don't mean much.  (There's even someone on Twitter tweeting 'JK Rowling's best (worst) sentences.) Takes far too long for the story to develop.  Too much hatred directed randomly at the characters.  Too many Dursleys.

What is clear to me is that though we may have left the wands and the chocolate frogs behind, Pagford is as much a fantasy as Hogsmeade. It's just a much darker fantasy, where even the best efforts are doomed to fail and most make no effort at all.

I think it's understandable that JK Rowling wanted to try a different type of book.  I am surprised that she seems to have thrown away the core morality of the HP books along with the robes and the every flavour beans.  In HP love is the ultimate protection and the ultimate weapon. But who loves in Pagford? Or is protected because they have been loved?  And whom should we pity because they have no love? And what of courage - time and again in interviews JKR has said that she admires courage more than any other virtue.  But where's the courage in Pagford? Or the hope?

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October 10, 2012, 05:25:38 PM
Reply #6

HealerOne

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Oooh dear bemused - you might be very interested in the new topic I just put up on the lessons that JKR has scattered throughout TCV. I think if we peel off a layer or two off of the stark reality of the book, we do find a moral lessons underneath. Try this topic and see if you can uncover this layer of the book. http://forum.discussionstation.com/index.php?topic=195.0
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October 11, 2012, 02:39:27 AM
Reply #7

merrythought

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I'm very much enjoying reading everyone's thoughts.

Amoracia, you mentioned that the book feels a bit like a soap opera, and I had that reaction, too.  Although, I think there can be good soap! (like Thomas Hardy and Nathaniel Hawathorne)  Sometimes I felt that TCV gave us soap without much finesse in terms of the writing, which I think speaks to some of what bemused has said about the quality of narrative style.  I found it uneven:  there were places where I thought the writing was pretty good, and other places where it fell flat.  Sometimes I felt that a given situation was presented in an overly dramatic way, and it wasn't the situation that was implausible, but the stylistic choices created an artificiality.  Then again, the scenes of bullying Sukhvinder and of her cutting were realistic and deftly handled.  All in all, I think stylistically the book is a mixed bag, and I was bothered too by the feeling that some of the characters were types, and not fully fleshed out.

bemused, I thought you asked some thoughtful questions above.  In several cases, love comes so late in the novel, that I think it's valid to wonder at its sudden appearance:  Parminder's love for Sukhvinder; Samantha's love for Miles; Colin's love for Fats.  It's sort of hard to credit when the characters were so uniformly nasty through much of the book.  Is this where the hope is?  That tragedy makes people realize whom they love? If so, that's still pretty bleak!  The most consistent portraits of love which we have are Barry's paternal love for Krystal, and Krystal's love for her brother, and of course those don't survive the story.  Maybe we are meant to puzzle over these things?
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October 11, 2012, 10:50:14 PM
Reply #8

atschpe

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bemused, I thought you asked some thoughtful questions above.  In several cases, love comes so late in the novel, that I think it's valid to wonder at its sudden appearance:  Parminder's love for Sukhvinder; Samantha's love for Miles; Colin's love for Fats.  It's sort of hard to credit when the characters were so uniformly nasty through much of the book.  Is this where the hope is?  That tragedy makes people realize whom they love? If so, that's still pretty bleak!  The most consistent portraits of love which we have are Barry's paternal love for Krystal, and Krystal's love for her brother, and of course those don't survive the story.  Maybe we are meant to puzzle over these things?

I think we are meant to puzzle. With no apparent main character the readers is in some way thrown into the roll, viewing the various interactions, siding (or not), reacting … To me it feels like a mirror being held up to society, alla "if you continue this might become a common reality".

The above pairs show a kind of love form the top, but for the wrong reasons. It is no where near unconditional love, but the kind of a parent pushing their child to behave/excel and similar.

Yes, HealerOne in peeling back the cold layers of the narrative one does find morals, and these morals gurgle up in the questions we pose and the reactions we have to scenes. It's a bit like you have to actual pick up the coin from the grimy ground and flip it over, to see this.
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 14, 2012, 01:22:37 AM
Reply #9

aislinn

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I finished the book a couple of days ago, and I've got mixed feelings about it. It wasn't an easy read; like many, I had a bit of trouble getting into the story, with the way Rowling introduced so many characters at once. It was quite dark in tone, given the view of life in Pagford from inside each of the character's thoughts. Those thoughts were often uncomfortable, distasteful or aggravating, but I thought they painted a vivid picture of the lives of these characters at a catalytic moment in time.

I think you make an excellent point, atschpe when you mention her not giving us a main character to identify with, and that we instead are left to consider more the nature of life and societal choices through the lens of the personal values, experiences, and neuroses of all of the characters. I thought it was a really effective tool, unremitting in its presentation of what can go on inside people's heads, with no easy heroes or villains.

I knew we wouldn't have a happy ending, but I didn't anticipate the specifics until Krystal actually left Robbie alone on the bank. It's one of those books that's going to stay with me for a while, but I don't think I'll be picking it up for a re-read the way I still do the HP series.
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October 16, 2012, 08:01:38 PM
Reply #10

Evreka

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I finished the book yesterday night, but it needed a day to settle before I got in here. As these are my first impressions, I will state those first, before going back and read the thread. This is to make sure I give my own view before it becomes blended with others. :)

First off I must say this: the book was described as a very British political satire, which for any other author would have meant that I wouldn't have been the least bit likely to even pick it off the shelf for a closer examination, much less to read it. Because of this, this is the only political satire I have ever read, and so for once I have nothing to compare it to in its own genre.

Also, given the topics that comes up in the HP series, and are dealt with there, I was quite anxious to read this one. For an author who has dealt with prejudice, murder, war, death, touched upon extermination of people (Muggles) in a book series sold to children, what would she make of a political satire, touching on some very grim facts of life, when it was directed towards exclusively adults?  :-\ The more so as I felt sure that she would address at least some of her political beliefs and I was sure she was going to use this opportunity to reach people and attempt to get them to see the issues that she cares about deeply. Which I suspect that she has done (or attempted to do). And contrary to almost any other author, I don't think Jo is concerned about keeping all of her readers happy, I think she is far more concerned about getting her message out, be true to her intention of the story, and she might even welcome the thought that this book just might shake a few fans loose and help to cool the hype around her as an author?

The overall reaction I have, after finishing it, is that it is an interesting book. I found it very slow in the beginning, the first 50 pages I found to be mostly boring - but then I wasn't really in the mood for any casual reading at the time (no pun intended). So that didn't really help, either. The first thing that changed it was the first few chapters following immediately after Olden Days. Having read those, my interest for the inhabitants of Pagford suddenly awakened and I wondered what it would be like to re-read the first 50 pages, against that backdrop? And then I went "Hmmmm, this feels familiar somehow...". Still, even if the book took off after Olden Days it didn't really submerged me and I had no feeling that I had to keep reading, for the sake of the story.

In fact I had read roughly 50% before I began to really feel involved in the plot. However, as I work with databases IRL, the plot as it turned to SQL Injections, really got my attention! And from somewhere around there, I became more and more engaged in primarily the teens of this book. And yet, in several characters, both teens and adults, I recognize Jo's take on "fifty shades of grey" as in where on the moral scale her characters live. And they are all, really, on a slanting scale. And in some cases I have come to truly re-evaluate who they are at the end of the book.

I didn't really like Krystal, although I wasn't completely condemning her either, but she wasn't my favourite exactly. Yet I cried at the end, for her sake more than her brothers, and that is one hell of an achievement from Jo's part!!! To get me that invested into her life, to make me feel the tragedy at the end over such a complicated person.

On the other hand, when the book starts, Stuart Walls seemed to me to be an unruly - but mostly harmless - teen on the warpath from his parents. Granted, the harmless feeling melted quickly, yet I wasn't expecting that I would truly despise him at the end. And as if his terrible selfishness and the consequences it leads to wasn't enough, one particular sentence, very late in the book, shows clearly that his selfishness and shallow heart to everyone else was not "merely" part of his teen age uproar, but something that had been inside him all his life:
Quote from: CV, page 490, Andrews memory
A memory, long buried in the deepest recesses of his mind, came back to him, of that time in the playground at St Thomas's, when Fats, in a spirit of disinterested investigation, had handed him a peanut hidden inside a marshmallow...

She [Krystal] had run, on her stocky little legs, all the way to the staff room, .... She was the only one who had remembered the talk that their teacher had given the class, ...; the only one to recognize his symptoms.
So, the young Stuart thought it was funny to risk his friends life!  :o And Krystal, of all people, was the one to get it right. A few sentences, yet they shift a lot...

Kay, Gavin and a few more are other persons where my initial image of them changes over the course of the story.


What I still haven't understood is what it is in this story that is supposedly so British? Funds are cut everywhere it seems and it often causes most pain among those who have the greatest needs. I'm not going to claim that this precise story line is likely to ever happen - anywhere - but most ingredients could fit in many different places at least in Europe, I would assume?

My main gripe would probably be the odd divisions of the book, which especially initially I found more confusing than anything. Parts, chapter numbers, days, new paragraphs, and the frequent going back in time in a loooong parenthesis; most of it in a jumble. I think it would have been easier to get emerged in if it had been a little bit more chronological or at least less of going hither and dither in the time frame.

So, to sum it up, it was a much, much, MUCH better read than I had expected, although it was hard to get into. Once in though, it engaged - at least in part -  and there were many things in which I recognized the Quill of the author I respect and who has written so many books that I love. And I am currently considering whether I will re read it soon, to see if it would be as difficult to get into on a re read when I already know everyone.

-------- Added later: ------------------

I thought it, overall, quite an earnest book.  And of course there is nothing wrong with an earnest book; ... 
Yes, this is a good description of what I was trying to get across in a lot more words. I too found it earnest in the problems described, what they led to and the underlying problems.

I liked how all of the characters were a blend of good and bad, but I thought parents came off as awful for the most part; the book has a lot more empathy for the kids.  Until the end, my heart bled most for Sukhvinder... even more than Krystal, who I saw as a fighter; I thought if she could get through, she would be all right; I could see her settling down into a good life as an adult, if she had continued to have help through her teen years.   Sukhvinder, though, seemed more trapped because she turned her pain inward.  But I guess what it ultimately came down to was that Sukhvinder had support at home (eventually) and Krystal didn't.   I've noticed in real life that that's what often makes the difference. 
I agree, and I think that's one reason why the book "needs" to end as it does. In its earnesty, Jo wants all of us to understand the danger of closing clinincs, or threaten to do so. She wants to show us how vulnerable children like the Weedons are... And that it might be a good idea to turn to your parents about the most painful things, like Suhkvinder eventually does.

I have discussed with some others that they had difficulty with wading through the first part of the book - the set up part. They felt like it was disjointed and leapt from person to person too much - making it difficult to figure out who the characters were.
This was precisely my problem, too! And it didn't help that Shirley and Samantha had names that was kind of close in my head.

The Point of View (PoV) she is writing from is very interesting. She doesn't have one character who takes the 'all-knowing' position but instead each of the characters presents his own PoV in the real time within the story. There is a small amount of narration which is helpful -  like in the explanation of the history of how the Fields came about.  I think that the way she writes from each characters PoV really helps to build the characters faster than just describing them and what happens to them.
I usually love when books are written from this kind of shifting perspective, it opens for some true revelations as you revisit the same characters from somebody else's perspective later. I think this is the main reason why Kay and Gavin changes their shapes as the story progresses. At first at least I tend to take the presented person from the PoV that they are described from, and then you gradually see them shift as you add more descriptions with every new page they appear at.

I do think those first 50 pages shifts the PoV too quickly, though. I would have preferred for the Olden Days part to come at the beginning and the narrowing it down to the current time and the people involved today.  It would, I think, have helped at least a little.

So, a big credit to Rowling for not shying away from showing blatantly how it can be. She doesn't hide from using the coarse language, nor of describing thread bare scenes without flinching ot prettying it up. She could have cut away when something really got hairy, but that is exactly what she is commenting on: how society likes to close their eyes when it gets too "real".
I second that.

What really interested me, is that Rowling did not develop a main character. There is no attachment to a person or family, so it is up to us to not only balance everyone we get to know, but also to judge/evaluate as we take sides. With a clear main character it is easy to take their point of view and see the world through their eyes, but as a reader she denies us this easy way out. We have to work here, not sit back and watch through a little window. A very strong tool!
This is a very interesting way to describe it and it might be one reason why I like books with shifting PoV from person to person in the story. I never thought of it in those terms, but this was a great description! :)

I am surprised that she seems to have thrown away the core morality of the HP books along with the robes and the every flavour beans.  ...  And whom should we pity because they have no love? And what of courage - time and again in interviews JKR has said that she admires courage more than any other virtue.  But where's the courage in Pagford? Or the hope?
There are lots of characters to pity for not knowing what love and care is, Terri Weedon probably more than anyone. Her back story that suddenly pops up somewhere (I don't think I can find it to quote) of what happened to her when she was just a girl explains a lot really.

As for the moral fibre, the courage and even hope - it is all there, it just takes a lot more work to find it. While the book ends before we know what happens to the Bellchapel Clinic, there is good hope that it will prevail, as Miles are agreeing to co-opt two people who are (probably) both for it. And I've grown to respect Samantha to a certain extent, by the final chapters. I think there is good hope for the clinic, for Gaia and Kay to get their world back and Andrew might, at least from time to time, actually have a friend in Reading who is a huge step up from Fats, whenever Gaia visits.

« Last Edit: October 16, 2012, 09:00:15 PM by Evreka »
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November 10, 2012, 08:42:04 PM
Reply #11

JaneMarple9

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I think I might have been the most nervous out of the whole group of us, to read this book. I'm not used to reading stuff out of my comfort zone. And also the previews of it ... we were to get drug abuse, swearing, and everything that I don't usually like "dealing" with. I am pretty sure that if the book wasn't written by Jo, I wouldn't have even picked it up, let alone read it.
But ... I was pleasantly surprised  ;D I won't say that it was on a par with the Potterverse - a total different sort of book, not a "happy" book at all. But I managed to ignore all the uncomfortable stuff, as I read, the characters were really well-developed. It was a book that made you think, and it was a definite 8 out of 10 for me!

"There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with a really big library"
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November 13, 2012, 03:14:34 AM
Reply #12

HealerOne

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Jane, I applaud your courage in going outside your comfort zone! That is something that we really do have to lay at JK Rowling's feet! She, through writing the marvelous Harry Potter series, gave all of us "Casual readers" a path to open ourselves up to many, many different types and levels of literature! I think we can thank her for relying so much on the past great literature for the some of the structure and prose of the HP series. All those wonderful literary allusions within Potter drew us (dare I say - "down the Rabbit hole"!)  to the many ways stories can be re-written, changed and tweaked to become great literature! That said, TCV shows us yet another more raw story (for sure) that turns out to be a moral tale. I know the story certainly made me think.  I still find myself thinking about the central questions of the book, "Who is my neighbor?"  and "Am I his keeper?"
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November 17, 2012, 12:33:46 AM
Reply #13

Marielle

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OK...I was sure I had written a lonnnng post about my impression of the books a few weeks ago.....but it isn't there!  :-[ I don,t what I did wrong.

So going from memory  :D Like most of you this isn't my kind of usual read, though I have read worst (in terms of language, violence drugs and sex) there is something that makes it even worst, even if it is lighter, when the setting of the book is really possible in real life. There is something really unsettling, disturbing and sad when you know those are true in real life. A reality most of us, like the people in Pagford, don't want to see.

Though this book wasn't part of my usual read, I still liked it and I think it was well written, even if I did have some problems with it, but that is really related to me and has more to do with the way the book was structure than the writing itself. (I have trouble following it through when too many characters are introduce one after the others, I have to make notes to know who is who)

Now about the main theme of the book, which I think is essentially the main character in a way, nobody is perfect, everybody has flaws. To me, this books illustrate this very well, weather you are poor or not, you have problem to deal with and you aren't necessary a better person or a more balance person because of it, or a wiser person because of it. That the world would be a much better place if we could just take the time to think a little about the other and be there, instead of just thinking me! me! me!
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November 22, 2012, 04:05:11 AM
Reply #14

HealerOne

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Though this book wasn't part of my usual read, I still liked it and I think it was well written, even if I did have some problems with it, but that is really related to me and has more to do with the way the book was structure than the writing itself. (I have trouble following it through when too many characters are introduce one after the others, I have to make notes to know who is who)

Now about the main theme of the book, which I think is essentially the main character in a way, nobody is perfect, everybody has flaws. To me, this books illustrate this very well, weather you are poor or not, you have problem to deal with and you aren't necessary a better person or a more balance person because of it, or a wiser person because of it. That the world would be a much better place if we could just take the time to think a little about the other and be there, instead of just thinking me! me! me!

From what I have read, many people including the reviewers said they had to keep notes on who was who in this book. The margins of my book are full of notes! I actually read this first on my Kindle and was frustrated by keeping track of the characters, so I was glad that I decided to also get a hard copy when I read it the second time. So anyway don't feel bad about keeping a roster!

I really like what you have said about the main character being the thought that we all need to be more empathetic to others. Because we don't really know what demons other people live with. It would make a better world if we all gave a little more thought to others and didn't judge them as harshly as we tend to do without knowing what their lives are really like. 

I wonder in that this book is quite real to life that in many years to come people will point to this book and say that it is one of JKR's best and compare it to Dickens or Mark Twain as a great commentary on these times.
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December 05, 2012, 01:28:55 AM
Reply #15

T-Dane

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I really like what you have said about the main character being the thought that we all need to be more empathetic to others. Because we don't really know what demons other people live with. It would make a better world if we all gave a little more thought to others and didn't judge them as harshly as we tend to do without knowing what their lives are really like. 

I wonder in that this book is quite real to life that in many years to come people will point to this book and say that it is one of JKR's best and compare it to Dickens or Mark Twain as a great commentary on these times.

I have not read the whole thing yet!
 
I'm sorry that I haven't - this is not only outside my comfort zone, it's describing accurately, to the point where it's not even funny or interesting anymore, the way people here in my small town live their lives - in big generalizing ways, but that is also JKR's force in her storytelling.

It's the kids!

I can tell you, I'm trembling with some of the themes the book is touching, for coming too close ... way TOO close ... to reality!  When I then turn to the rest of the family and look outside to my friends it's disturbing.
Too close for comfort.

Hardly EVER do I watch a Danish movie. They are most often so darn realistic and in most cases it makes them boring - to me. Reality is what I take time off from by watching movies.

Ditto with books. I'm in the fantasy genre mostly.

it's not that I do not let myself be challenged. I write, I paint. Every day is a struggle exactly because I'm relentless to cope, to learn and move on. it's just so much more "real" when it's a story - if that makes sense - because another person wrote the words without being in my shoes even for a split second. - and it makes me sad for the other persons on the Earth, having to fight for their survival in one way or the other. I'd wish they did not have to.
I'm ranting I know. I do that, when I'm nervous. And I'm nervous, because I KNOW, I will pick up the book again and read, because people I respect read it. Bc an author I admire wrote it. But having a place to vent will make it - perhaps - more manageable? I don't know. So far I really don't like it.
The thing I DO know is, I have to have the time it takes for me to get to the next hurdle, being able to have the 'room' inside me to adress themes, I would otherwise take up in my own pace.

So - enough rant - I'm going to read. Thanks
*climbing down from soapbox*

Please point me in a direction you'd think would make the read easier, if you don't mind! And otherwise I'll lurk around in DS and see what kind of rabbits you find in your hat(s).
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December 06, 2012, 03:07:25 AM
Reply #16

HealerOne

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So good to see you posting T-Dane! This is a difficult book on many levels and I really feel for you if the subject matter comes too close to home. Honestly I don't think that JKR was writing this book for people that are close to this situation. I think it was written more for those that live their lives without knowing how difficult life can be for others. To know that she is making you uncomfortable with how real it seems to you, makes me all the more convinced that JKR is all too familiar with the devils that inhabit this book.

Now your question as to how to make the reading of this book 'easier'. That's a hard one. First, I would suggest that you study up on the Good Samaritan Story before you go any further as this will be a help to interpret the story that  JKR is telling. Then I would suggest to you that you  concentrate on the characters of Sukhvinder and Barry Fairbrother, for these two characters appear to overcome their battles - difficult as they are. Surprisingly, Samantha, too is able to grow in all this chaos. The story of the teens are the strongest stories in the book; take  the positive parts of those stories and hold to them. The negative stuff - deal with as the 'ashes' of the story that must be burned away to find the truth.  If it helps to put this in Alchemical terms - think of this as (mostly) the First Operation in the Alchemical Journey - Calcination and towards the end, with the introduction of that necessary element, water,  the Second Operation of  Dissolution. I think JKR doesn't finish out the Operations of Alchemy in this book because she wishes the reader to pursue for themselves how they will go forth in their lives, now that they have had a look-see into how others have to live their lives. In other words, have you as a reader learned the lesson of the Good Samaritan?

My last suggestion is perhaps too much to ask if it it difficult to get through the first time. I would suggest you read it a second time to be able to really see the story that lurks behind the lives of these characters. I just don't think this book is one that can be truly understood without a second reading. 

:-\  I sure hope this helps. Do any of the rest of the posters have any suggestions for T-Dane?
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December 06, 2012, 03:29:29 AM
Reply #17

Marielle

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I would love to be able to give some advice, unfortunately I have none!  :(

This isn't an easy book, as it brings to the forefront all the sort of "dysfunctions" a lot people have to live with. Sure I don't think there is a village where that many people have so much of them, but I think the high level of dysfunction was made bigger to show them clearly. How everybody are afflicted with some level of them. How they manage to live with them 24hours/day, 7days/week......

So in the end, my suggestion is this. If it makes you uncomfortable, well just stop reading and wait until you feel you are ready. If you are then, you can try reading it again, if you are not, there are plenty of other books waiting for you to discover them.  :)
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April 03, 2013, 08:10:49 PM
Reply #18

Evreka

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The overall reaction I have, after finishing it, is that it is an interesting book. I found it very slow in the beginning, the first 50 pages I found to be mostly boring ... The first thing that changed it was the first few chapters following immediately after Olden Days. Having read those, my interest for the inhabitants of Pagford suddenly awakened and I wondered what it would be like to re-read the first 50 pages, against that backdrop? And then I went "Hmmmm, this feels familiar somehow...". Still, even if the book took off after Olden Days it didn't really submerged me and I had no feeling that I had to keep reading, for the sake of the story...

So, to sum it up, it was a much, much, MUCH better read than I had expected, although it was hard to get into. Once in though, it engaged - at least in part -  and there were many things in which I recognized the Quill of the author I respect and who has written so many books that I love. And I am currently considering whether I will re read it soon, to see if it would be as difficult to get into on a re read when I already know everyone....
I don't remember exactly when I picked it up for a re-read, but it was some time before Christmas, and I finally finished it for the second time yesterday. It isn't entirely up to the content of the book that it took so long, I've had far too many books started during the last few months of 2012, which I've tried to finish reading first. However, had this book had the pulling power of HP, it would have been finished months ago.

I realised during the re-read, that I still found the first 230 pages (or so) extremely boring, and that it is far too many pages in a novel to have that long of a boring intro. However, from the point of where Simon Price decides to apply for Barry's chair the story picks up, and once I reached the first SQL Injection (on page 240 of 503) I finished it in less than four days. Of course the plot point of the hacking is interesting in and of itself, but what really makes the story pick up is, I think, the various ways in which people react (or doesn't) to these flame posts. The Weedon storyline also becomes more interesting around  here somewhere, with Terri starting to realise how serious things are. In my opinion it is also from here somewhere, that the descriptions we originally got of how people are, starts to gradually swift.

Kay becomes an engaged social worker who may not be very good at reading her boyfriend, but he sure, isn't at all honest with her either. The teens start to show us who they truly are, as do others. And by the end of the book I think there are far fewer people that I haven't changed my opinion of, than those I have! And this gradually shifting understanding of who they all are is what make the second part so interesting to read, I think!

I think the main difference from my first read was perhaps that I liked Krystal better from the start, and also recognized early on that my favourite character is Andrew.

Still, I doubt I will reread it again in a hurry, and if I ever do, I might start at page 200 or so...

Has anyone else reread it yet, and did your opinion change after it?
« Last Edit: April 03, 2013, 08:21:51 PM by Evreka »
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April 07, 2013, 04:15:21 AM
Reply #19

RiverSpirit

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Thanks to Evreka's tip I have finally finished.

Still didn't like it. Too many unnecessary characters who didn't contribute much to the story. Too many story lines at once and not enough development of characters. Would have liked a more indepth story about a few rather than mish mash of too many. Do not think I will read it again.
  
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