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MIT Reads: The Casual Vacancy: The Book

"A vivid read with great, memorable characters and a truly emotional payoff....Rowling captures the humanity in everyone, even if that humanity is not always a pretty sight." -- Elizabeth GleickPeople

Miniseries Adaptation

A three-part miniseries based on the novel was produced in 2015.

Summary

It was strange how your brain could know what your heart refused to accept. -- J.K. Rowling, The Casual Vacancy

 

Often characterized as “a big novel about a small town,” The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. Told against the backdrop of a seemingly perfect English town, it’s a tale of marriage, social class, and political intrigue that shines a light on social issues such as racism, poverty, domestic violence, and addiction. All of this unfolds with Rowling’s characteristic eye for characters and story-telling flair, with a touch of dark humor.

Discussion Prompts

  1. What do you think is the novel’s overarching theme (or themes)?
  2. Do the teenagers in The Casual Vacancy have a stronger impact on the community than the adults?
  3. What is the role of technology in the novel?  How does it play into the generation gap between the young people and their parents?  
  4. How does Rowling depict sexism, racism, and classism within the world of her novel?  For example, how do the people of Pagford view and treat Parminder and Sukhvinder Jawanda? 
  5. Many of the characters are hiding secrets.  What is the effect when these secrets are revealed?

Main Characters

The Fairbrothers:

  • Mary and Barry* 

The Jawandas:

  • Parminder* and Vikram
  • Sukhvinder~

The Mollisons:

  • Shirley and Howard*
  • Samantha and Miles** 

The Prices:

  • Ruth and Simon**
  • Andrew~

The Walls:

  • Tessa and Colin**
  • Stuart ("Fats")~

The Weedons:

  • Terri
  • Krystal~

The Bawdens:

  • Kay
  • Gaia~

*Member of Pagford Parish Council

**Standing for Pagford Parish Council

~Student, Winterdown Comprehensive

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