Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A Wayfarer in Pagford

A Wayfarer in Pagford
A review by Andry Chang for

The Casual Vacancy
The novel by J. K. Rowling

The Wayfarer arrived at Pagford Square

I can’t believe myself. Me, the Wayfarer, traveler of worlds of fantasy got myself in Pagford, a small town not too far from London.
Getting off the inter-city bus with my backpack on, I walked towards Pagford Square. As I set foot on the pavement there, I felt envigored by the fresh air that caressed my lungs. I looked around.
“There it is,” I muttered, walking towards a building just ahead.
Instead of an inn, I went into a café and sat in a corner. My legs were killing me.
I glanced around and talked aloud, “Oi, waiter?” But no one came.
The three guests sitting on the bar and tables looked adamant – they were just busy with themselves, reading a book, sipping coffee and talked with each other.
Just then, a girl came half-running towards my table. She was dark-skinned and about sixteen, wearing a white dress and an apron.
“Ah, I’m so sorry, sir. Just got busy out back with my boss giving me tasks,” said the waitress. “We’re kind of short-handed right now. Well, what would you like, sir?”
Wearily yet patiently, I said, “One hot Hazelnut Latte and a slice of your Homemade Bacon Sandwich.”
“Right away, sir!” The waitress dashed towards the counter.
It took her long to finally presenting me with my orders. Yet, I thanked her and began to dig into my meal.
“Err… you’re not from around here, are you sir?” said the waitress almost abruptly, with a frown.
I finished chewing with a ready answer, “Well, that’s obvious, from my backpack, my accent, my looks and all.” Elementary, Watson.
“And not from England either.”
I nodded.
“Mind if I sit here?”
“No problem.”
She sat and extended a hand. “I’m Sukhvinder. What’s your name?”
“Just call me Andy,” I said. “Mind if I call you ‘Suvi’?”
“Sounds nice, yeah.” Suvi smiled. “Where are you from?”
“My hometown is Jakarta.”
“Jakarta like, the capital of Indonesia?”
“Right you are.”
Sukhvinder’s eyes and nostrils widened with interest. “So, tell me, what brought you from Jakarta all the way here, to Pagford? Let me guess, is it because of Joanne’s book?”
The straightforward question deserved a straight answer. “Partly, yes.”
“I knew it,” said Suvi with a frown. “And the other part might be…”
“To meet and talk with a Pagford citizen in that story. You, for one.” I pointed at her with my chin.
“Me? I…” The young girl seemed distraught all of a sudden. “If it’s about the Casual Vacancy incident, everything I want to say to you are written in Joanne’s book. No less, no more.”
“Haha, that’s okay, you don’t have to recite the whole story.” I soothed her frown with a smile. “Just a casual meet-and-greet. I’ve already got everything I need from the book.”
“Well, now that you meet one of us here, I want you to know what you’ve got from Joanne’s book.”
I looked straight at Suvi’s eyes. “Firstly, I want to say this. ‘God is in everyone’s soul, yet society tends to seek the devil within’.”
“And what else?”
“And… when ‘politics’ come in the picture, all hell breaks loose.”
Sukhvinder fell silent. Something in my words must’ve triggered something inside her. My guess is it was an unpleasant, painful, if not traumatizing memory. The memory of friends came and gone. Of trust gained and lost, and even lives lost.
Of innocent, everyday people turned into “monsters” when their secrets were unraveled by The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother. Who was to blame? The so-called “ghost”? The Casual Vacancy of political power? In a small, almost rural town of Pagford?

From Pagford with love

“True,” said Sukhvinder, her tone turned more serious. “The past incident have brought the worst from some people and the best from some other. But then, who’s the real culprit and the real hero here? All we can see are the victims and… the people who pulled the trigger…”

This time, silence was upon me. It took courage to say what’s next. “I think, the true culprits are the ‘devil’ inside everyone of us. The need for glory, recognition, attention, appreciation, not losing what we’ve got, getting something that others want or have. In short, it’s part of human nature.”
“How about the heroes?”
“I think it’s something in human nature as well that’s called ‘a God in every soul’. The will to sacrifice, selflessness, to forgive, to love, to help unconditionally, also the courage to do what’s right – even at a great cost.”
Sukhvinder nodded. “I see. So that’s what turned victims into heroes, heroes into villains, villains into saints and saints into victims.”
“So, Joanne didn’t root into a specific someone as a main protagonist when she wrote the story. She just let the story flow. It’s up to the readers to pick their own favourites, to root into a certain character and find out the outcome in the end.”
The waitress’ bitter smile was the response. She knew full well of her position and some others’. In the end, it didn’t matter who won, who lost and who got the “casual vacancy”. What really mattered was what had become of each and every character after the series of dramatic changes in the end. Who were the real heroes, the villains, the saints and… the victims?
“Thank you,” Suvi muttered.
“For what?”
“For going all the way to tell me this.”
“Ah, it’s nothing compared to what Pagford brought to us through Joanne. It’s a slice of life with all the rough edges, of a bunch of ordinary people doing what comes naturally.”
“Right. Well, what do you think of the story itself?” Suvi asked.
“The plotting, though very neatly organized – worthy of the writer who brought us Harry Potter – was rather slow-paced in the beginning. Part one is the introduction of the characters when they’re going on and on, expressing reactions towards Barry Fairbrother’s death. Part two presents the problem at hand, concerning the Fields.
Things are getting more exciting when The_Ghost_of_Barry_Fairbrother sprang into action. Now the readers might’ve guessed on even rooted for a specific candidate for the casual vacancy. And through that process, they will know for sure will be left standing – or sitting – as Barry’s replacement in the town council.”
Suddenly, Sukhvinder protested, “Hey, this story is more than just who won the election, right? You said that earlier.”
“Of course!” I winked. “That’s why now I want to tell you my favourite characters, the ones I rooted in the book. You, for one.”
“Wow, thanks!” Sukhvinder Jawanda almost leaped from her seat.
“The pressure from your schoolmates made you suffer, and you made some mistakes along the way. Yet, you stood your ground and became what you are now.” 

Other characters of note are:
1.      Krystal Weedon: A tough girl by attitude, yet very fragile at heart. She might've been a hero, an angel in disguise... with a real tough life to live.
2.      Parminder Jawanda: The pressure was on her, yet she was willing to risk it all to do what’s right.
3.      Kay: All she wanted to do was to help other people, but who will help her?
4.      Stuart “Fats” Wall: My least liked character of all. How can we expect a teenager, especially a troublemaker juvenile to consider the risks and consequences of his actions? He whose idea caused chaos.

“So, what I mean is,” said I. “Everybody has his own faults and secrets. How can a society demand perfection from its leader? Even in a community where people are closely related to each other? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, like you said, it’s human nature that collectively forms a society, a community.” Sukhvinder shrugged. “That’s why, in this senseless society, some secrets are better kept secret.”
“Even if you reveal it for your own good, or the good of the society?”
“Yes, especially that.”
“Ah, yes. Just let people read ‘The Casual Vacancy’ as an example, so they can learn from it. Learn from the people of Pagford.”
Suvi snapped her finger. “Which reminds me. How is the society, the politics in your hometown, Jakarta?”
“Well, Jakarta is somewhat similar to Pagford, but in a larger extent. It’s a vast metropolitan with all the beauty, the prospects of greatness it can offer. But beneath, it’s like a jungle. Classy, good people can turn savage and evil, doing things for their own benefit and wellness, disregarding other people’s rights, safety and well-being in the process. What’s worse, they can do it shamelessly even under society’s scrutiny.”
That notion got Suvi whistled. “Whew! To think that there are places much worse than Pagford. Jakarta – and I bet Mumbai and many other places too… Made me thankful for staying in this little, peaceful town.”
“Actually, I’m also thankful to live in Jakarta,” I said. “No matter how hard it is, if we always allow ‘the God in every soul’ to take control, we can overcome everything. We just held an election for City Governor last year. The ordeal was long, filling the headlines of news of candidates discredit each other, even raising a bit of racism. Yet, now we have a new Governor, and the citizens of Jakarta had the final victory in a good, peaceful election.”
“Good for you, Andy.” Suvi raised her thumb. “Now, if you just excuse me, I think my boss is calling me. Once again, thank you for the pleasant chit-chat.”
“My pleasure,” I said, waving politely as Sukhvinder darted towards the door.
I shook my head, finishing my meal and coffee real slowly.
And then, I grabbed my backpack, paid my bill and went outside, the fresh air of the little town of Pagford.
Suddenly, my mood swung in and I let out a song.

In between Pagford and Jakarta
We were fallin’ in love
In between Pagford and Jakarta
A three-night story of love
I shall remember forever
In between Pagford and Jakarta

Jakarta, January 9, 2013

Sing along with me!"In Between Pagford and Jakarta"

(English Language Edition) The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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?

Hardcover, First Edition (US), 512 pages
Published September 27th 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2012)
0316228532 (ISBN13: 9780316228534)
edition language
original title
The Casual Vacancy
Pagford (United Kingdom)

literary awards

The Casual Vacancy Indonesia

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1 comment:

  1. An angel has became a martyr, a victim of circumstance.