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Molly Keener

Envy

Multiple characters in “The Casual Vacancy” seem envious of others’ lives and what they represent: Gavin of Barry, Andrew of Fats, Sukhvinder of her siblings, Krystal of Nana Cath. What illusions were they living under, and how were they born out?

This post and attendant comments will wrap-up our conversation about J.K. Rowling’s first non-HP, adult novel. Thanks for great discussion!

Avoidable chain reaction?

Barry Fairbrother’s death set off a chain reaction of events in Pagford. How much, if any, of the resulting events do you suppose would have happened if Barry had not died?

Character perspective

Throughout “The Casual Vacancy,” Rowling shifts perspective among her core characters, often in mid-chapter and at times with very little forewarning. Several reviewers and readers have commented that they believe Rowling’s writing to be strongest when writing from the teenagers’ points of view. Do you agree? Which character’s perspective did you enjoy the most? Who do you wish we’d heard from more often?

We aren’t at Hogwarts anymore…

Welcome to the November DeacsRead discussion of The Casual Vacancy! As any Potterhead already knows, J.K. Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter novel is a departure from both YA and fantasy. In her move to adult literature, Rowling introduces us to the inhabitants of Pagford, a small town in the West Country of England, that has been rocked by the sudden death of a member of the town’s council. If you have already begun reading, you know that as the town reacts to his death and scrambles to fill an open council seat, we most definitely aren’t at Hogwarts anymore.

Before we launch into the discussion of The Casual Vacancy, I am curious to know your thoughts about Rowling’s move into adult literature. Are you surprised, disappointed, heartened? Do you think these are necessary shifts in audience and genre, given the unprecedented success of Harry Potter, or simply an attempt to prove her career as a literary author, no longer secured by the liberties granted storytellers writing of a made-up world? Do you harbor hopes that one day she may return to the world of wizards, or do you wish the Harry Potter series to stand as is? I look forward to reading your thoughts, and to sharing my own!

Wrapping up & moving on

Book endings. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them, sometimes we want more, and sometimes we’re just happy to be finished (ahem, Moby-Dick!). Although Lauren and I both *loved* the ending of The Marriage Plot, believing it to be one of the best we’ve ever read in both literary execution and reader satisfaction, others have been critical. What did you think? Did Madeleine do all she could have and should have to locate Leonard? Did Mitchell’s epiphany surprise you? Did the ending allow the characters to finally move on from college into true adulthood? Tell us what you loved, hated or might have changed!

We hope you enjoyed The Marriage Plot, and if so, encourage you to listen to the author interview (last link on this page) to know more of what Jeffrey Eugenides was thinking (and how to pronounce his name).

And please plan to join us for April’s discussion of The Disappearing Spoon!

Travel! Quests for enlightenment?

In “The Marriage Plot,” Mitchell and his roommate set off for a year of travel, and some planned field work, at the end of their first post-college summer. Beginning in Paris, then meandering their way through Europe before landing in India, their travel becomes more than sightseeing and almost elevates to quests for personal enlightenment and self-discovery.

Have you ever traveled extensively, with no set route and only a loose idea of where you’d end up? If so, share your stories…we know you have them!

Defining college culture

Cultural touchstones – songs, events, innovations – anchor us to specific times and places, and often serve as instant connection points with others. It isn’t until page 14 that we know the year in which The Marriage Plot is set. However, cultural clues are sprinkled throughout the opening pages to subtly give readers an idea of the time:

  • the Talking Heads epigraph;
  • Patti Smith’s music;
  • New Wave band posters;
  • Elvis Costello glasses.

The most poignant touchstone for me (aka, I started singing it out loud!) was the song playing in the restaurant where Madeleine takes her parents for breakfast the morning of graduation:

So what cultural touchstones define your college years? What songs, events, fashions, books, movies, innovations do you recall? Do they help define your college experience? We’d love to hear about them!

New month, new read!

Welcome to March, the second month of the DeacsRead alumni book club! Molly Keener and Lauren Pressley, librarians at ZSR Library, are excited to be this month’s discussion leaders for “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides. If you’ve not yet picked up a copy of the book, we hope you will grab one and begin reading over the weekend — discussion will start early next week!

In the meantime, if you are interested in being notified of new discussion posts for this book via email, fill out this form:

Happy reading!