The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
published 2012 Part One - Friday
Night drew in over Pagford, and in the Old Vicarage Parminder Jawanda perused her wardrobe, wondering what to wear to say goodbye to Barry. She had several dark dresses and suits, any one of which would be appropriate, and yet still she looked backwards and forwards along the rail of clothes, mired in indecision.
Wear a sari. It’ll upset Shirley Mollison. Go on, wear a sari. It was so stupid to think that – mad and wrong – and even worse to think it in Barry’s voice. Barry was dead; she had endured nearly five days of deep grief for him, and tomorrow they would bury him in the earth. The prospect was unpleasant to Parminder. She had always hated the idea of interment, of a body lying whole under the ground, slowly rotting away, riddled with maggots and flies. The Sikh way was to cremate and to scatter the ashes in running water. She let her eyes wander up and down the hanging garments, but her saris, worn to family weddings and get-togethers back in Birmingham, seemed to call to her. What was this strange urge to don one? It felt uncharacteristically exhibitionist. She reached out to touch the folds of her favourite, dark blue and gold… The sari was elegant and feminine, forgiving of middle-aged spread: Parminder’s mother, who was eighty-two, wore it daily. Parminder herself had no need of its camouflaging properties: she was as slim as she had been at twenty. Yet she pulled out the long, dark length of soft material and held it up against her dressing gown, letting it fall to caress her bare feet, looking down its length at its subtle embroidery.
observations: For someone who is a multi-millionaire, living in her own stratosphere for the past ten years, J K Rowling has a pretty good feel for what’s going on in the world. Throughout this book I kept wondering how she knew so much about the areas I did feel qualified to make a judgement on, and being convinced by the bits I knew less about. The book takes some getting into – there is a complicated setup with a huge number of characters - but it is well worth it, as the book creates a world, and a very real one. It wears its heart on its sleeve and it's not set in London - those facts may have resulted in some snooty reviews, but are recommendations round here.
Pagford, the West Country village where most of the action takes place, has the same name as the village where Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet go for their Busman’s Honeymoon – it’s hard to decide if this is a coincidence.
Links up with: The Little Princess and Mary in Secret Garden both came from India. Exotic clothes for funerals here and here.
The picture, of a sari maker in Gujerat, was taken by Jeff Hart and can be found on Wikimedia Commons.