A Farewell To Unicorns
We're reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. This is our 11th and final installment of the book club. Join our discussion in the comments!
In case you found yourself on this page by accident or through general unicorn love...MASSIVE, PLANETARY SPOILERS BELOW!!!
The final chapters of this book have me thinking back, waaaaaaay back, to the end of Part One, when Fats and Andrew sit by the riverside and agree that the only two things guiding life are Sex and Death. This theory comes back into play—subtly, and I think pretty elegantly—at the very same river during the climactic scene of Robbie Weedon's death.
While Robbie wanders frantically about the riverside looking for his sister, he comes in contact with several distracted characters. Gavin Hughes, freshly snubbed by Mary Fairbrother and bluntly denied the hope of ever expressing his love to her physically, trudges right past Robbie on the bridge, and later forgets that he even saw the kid. Samantha Mollison sees Robbie but neglects to stop for him as she storms away from her husband, whom she has just admitted (verbally, and symbolically by snogging Andrew Price) no longer thrills her in the sack. Shirley Mollison, incensed by the knowledge that her husband has been showing his partner Maureen his, er, private butcher shop, storms past Robbie on a quest for violent retribution. And then there's the reason Robbie is wandering lost to begin with: his sister, busily shagging a dude behind some bushes, trying to get herself pregnant.
I like how this scene comes together. But I don't like that Robbie and Krystal both die. There's no easier way to manipulate an audience's emotions than killing a child. J.K. does this, then a few pages later kills off one of the most likable, tragically sympathetic characters in the story through the most unceremonious means at her disposable, as if to scream through the page THIS IS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT THE DISADVANTAGED.
I wasn't shocked when either character died. I was only angry. These final chapters reminded me of the end of Deathly Hallows, when Harry is walking through Hogwarts past rows of the dead and happens upon Lupin and Tonks. They're not dead to serve the plot. They're just dead because death is sad when it happens to people we like.
So, once again the negligence of Pagford's elders has hurt Pagford's children. But what's the flip side of this? Has anyone's life improved by the end of the story? Well, Fats and Cubby Wall are closer now, which is nice, even if it comes to the detriment of their relationships to Tessa. Andrew Price reconciles with Simon for a hot minute before the dude starts slugging people again, so no real change there. In the absence of bummer-cadet Gavin, Kay and Gaia Bawden seem on relatively stable terms for once—at least, stable compared to members of the numerous neighboring families who occasionally plot to kill one another.
By my reckoning the only two characters who emerge from this thing stronger and happier than before are Sukhvinder Jawanda and Samantha Mollison, both of whom are given new purpose in life after witnessing the misfortunes of others. Sam quits drinking, Sooks quits cutting; both ladies are determined to help improve life for people of The Fields in whatever little ways they can. Within them, hope for the future resides.
But that hope is small and fleeting as a golden snitch. This town, this story, sure is bleak, and I think I'll have to take the weekend to figure out if I truly enjoyed reading it. But I'll tell you what: I am 100% positive I loved blogging this thing with you guys.
Thank you for reading, for commenting, for making me and your fellow Sparklers think about these words in new ways. Thank you for being entirely respectful of the book, of me, and of each other—Sparklers really are the awesomest community on the web. If it took you a while to get a copy of CasVac, thank you for retroactively clicking through this modest content baby .(I'll post links to the whole series on Monday, along with your comments and recommendations about the book.)
But most of all: Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for giving me a reason to draw unicorns at work all day.
Now it's your turn. Whatta ya say about the ending of J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy? The Sparkler Council has the floor...