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Posts tagged ‘A Casual Vacancy’

Two Excellent BBC Drama Offerings: Wolf Hall and A Casual Vacancy

Michael Gambon & Julia McKenzie in the BBC's The Casual Vacancy

Michael Gambon & Julia McKenzie in the BBC’s The Casual Vacancy

We’ve recently seen two very good dramatizations on BBC TV: Wolf Hall, and The Casual Vacancy.

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC's Wolf Hall

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC’s Wolf Hall

The casting was brilliant, particularly Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, and Michael Gambon as Howard in The Casual Vacancy.

You may think think the two novels on which these dramatisations were based, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling, could hardly be more different; one story set in the sixteenth century Tudor Court, and the other in our contemporary society. And yet I found striking points of similarity.

In the world in which the two novels are set, we see how central tribalism is to human nature. The historians I have read on the subject of the Tudor Court have emphasised how everything revolved around factions. In Thomas Cromwell’s world he had to navigate the changing fortune of the factions: when the Boleyn faction was in the ascendancy, he advanced the cause of Anne Boleyn; but when the Seymour faction  began to gain the upper hand, it was politic for Thomas to bring about Anne’s downfall to make way for Jane Seymour. After all, in that “dog eats dog” world his own life was always at stake.

In The Casual Vacancy we see how the wealthy and privileged, in our most favoured and idyllic villages, gather together and dominate the local council and influence decisions about the local community in their own favour, so that the poor and marginalised are separated from them even further. JK Rowling is showing us something of how this same principle of tribalism, is replicated in English society today:how members of one group gather together to increase their power over the other: those who consider themselves socially ‘superior’ cluster together and fend off those who are perceived as failures, the socially dysfunctional.

Humans are tribal and we see this in every sphere of our lives.

In today’s western societies we might not turn to genocide and massacres of the kind we have seen in other countries of the world in the past few decades, because our ‘veneer of civilisation’ is still strong enough to prevail; but we are certainly capable of expressing the same dark undercurrents in our hearts and minds, by using other, more subtle methods, to achieve similar ends. The same tribalism is there, deeply rooted in our psyches.

Click here and here to find my own reviews of both books.

Did You Struggle With The Large Number of Characters in JK Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy? Here’s a Useful Crib-Sheet!

BBC 1 will be starting the first of a three-part mini series of JK Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy on Sunday at 9pm. I’m delighted that the BBC have chosen to adapt it as a drama, and will be watching eagerly. I have a high opinion of the book: see my book review here.

I was fascinated to learn that the screenwriter Sarah Phelps has, with JK Rowling’s agreement, changed the ending; she says “it needs some kind of redemptive moment at the end”. This tuned in with my own observations in my review, where I wrote:

However, although I enormously admire what JKR has done in this story, I still feel it lacks a strong enough spiritual message or act of redemption at the end; and the potential for that is very strongly present as the narrative progresses….  It’s only JK Rowling’s decision not to take the opportunity for a stronger redemptive message which prevents me from giving her book the highest possible rating.”

If you’ve read the book and struggled with the number of characters, here’s my own personal cribsheet of every named character in the novel. I created this list as I read the novel. Some of those named are not developed as characters at all, but are simply referred to. I hope you find this list helpful; though of course when you watch the mini-series you probably won’t have a problem keeping up with the characters, because the actors will make a big difference.

SC Skillman’s CRIB SHEET OF ALL THE CHARACTERS IN

A CASUAL VACANCY

by JK Rowling

 

Barry Fairbrother, “bearded little man”, Parish Counsellor, Bank Manager, who dies of an aneurysm at the beginning of the novel

His wife Mary, and their children Declan, Fergus, and twins Niamh and Siobhan

Miles Mollison, solicitor, in partnership with Gavin Hughes

Samantha, Miles’s wife

Their daughters Lexie and Libby who go to St Anne’s Independent School in Yarvil

Howard, Miles’s father, owner of delicatessan, Chair of Parish Council, 1st Citizen of Pagford

Shirley, Howard’s wife, Miles’s mother; she is a hospital volunteer, had hated Barry Fairbrother, and administers the Council’s website

Patricia, their daughter, Miles’s sister

Gavin Hughes, squash partner of Barry’s, solicitor in partnership with Miles

Kay Bawden, social worker, Gavin’s lover

Gaia, Kay’s daughter

Una, Alex and Mattie, Kay’s social services colleagues

Colin and Tessa Wall, friends of Mary and Barry. Colin is a Deputy Headteacher and Tessa is Head of Guidance.

Stuart their son, known as “Fatso”, who is best friends with Andrew Price, and has a sexual relationship with Krystal Weedon

Ruth Price, a nurse

Simon Price, Ruth’s husband, abusive and boorish to his family, runs a printworks, is particularly aggressive to his elder son Andrew

Their son Andrew who has a bad attitude to his father Simon, and who fancies Kay’s daughter Gaia

Andrew’s younger brother Paul

Maureen, Howard’s business partner in the Delicatessan, age 62, widow of Howard’s previous business partner Ken

Shona, Miles and Gavin’s legal secretary

Dr Parminder Jawanda, local GP, Parish Counsellor, had loved Barry Fairbrother

Vikram, her handsome husband, cardiac surgeon

Their three children: Jaswant, Sukhvinder and Rajpal

Mrs Shawcross, headmistress

Aubrey Fawley who purchased Sweetlove House in the 1950’s and had four children

Young Aubrey, his son, Pagford’s rep on the Yarvil Council, a merchant banker in London

Julia, Young Aubrey’s wife

Alison Jenkins, news reporter

 

PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN or are associated with people who live in “THE FIELDS”

 

Terri Weedon, a drug addict and dysfunctional mother

Krystal, her daughter, problem pupil

Robbie, Krystal’s little brother (Terri’s son), in danger of being removed by social services

Anne-Marie, their sister, (Terri’s other daughter) no longer living with them

Obbo, drug-pusher, who sells drugs to Terri

Nikki, Jemma and Leane, Krystal’s schoolfriends

Nana Cath, Krystal’s great-grandmother, and Terri’s grandmother

Rhiannon, another of Nana Cath’s granddaughters (Terri’s cousin?)

John and Sue, Nana Cath’s son and daughter

Cheryl and Danielle, Terri’s sisters

Dane Tully, dysfunctional teen, his father and two brothers are frequently in prison

 

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