Monday, 29 October 2012

Books to Read When You Can't Sleep

Posted by Daisy
I HAVEN’T slept in a while. I’ve tried camomile tea, wine, hot baths, and exercise. Nothing works. Invariably I find myself lying in the dark tap-tapping on my phone and indulging in my new guilty pleasure – the Mumsnet Relationships forum. Nightly, I read posts entitled ‘He's left me for another woman’, ‘Is this behaviour normal?’, ‘Please help me I feel so low’ or ‘Do you think it’s ok to settle?’
It’s depressing and enlightening, and very addictive. Whole lives are played out by anonymous women posting their stories online and asking for the advice of strangers.
Insomnia also enabled me to read ‘The Casual Vacancy’ in two nights. JK Rowling described her book as ‘very English’ and initially, it did remind me of Sue Townsend’s ‘Adrian Mole’ series, with its bleak language of elections, council meetings and town planning. I hated Mole and his use of words like‘hoi polloi’ and ‘proletariat’, and thought ‘The Casual Vacancy’ would be similar.

But the characters in Rowling’s book make the story fizzle. There is Terri Weedon, the junkie mother who regularly sleeps with the local drug dealer, and her daughter Krystal, a rebel who had her moment to shine on the rowing team. There’s Parminder, the local doctor and her overweight teenage daughter Sukhvinder, who is being bullied daily by a schoolmate who posts links to hirsutism and hermaphrodite websites on her Facebook page. There’s the weak deputy head of the local comprehensive, who is hiding a grotty secret, and his wife, Tessa, the school counsellor, who wears lumpy green cardigans and wooden jewellery.  And Kay, a social worker in her thirties who moved to Pagdon with her beautiful daughter, Gaia, to further her relationship with Gavin Hughes, who has no intention of marrying her.
Everything is so banal and everyone is so grubby, hiding behind the façade of life in a cobbled-streeted, flower-filled small town in England.
Just like Mumsnet, in fact. All these people with seemingly perfect lives, yet in reality they hide in bedrooms typing furiously into their phones about DH’s (Darling Husband) abusive tendencies, DP’s (Darling Partner) elopement with an OW (Other Woman) or MIL’s (Mother In Law) refusal to meet her first grandchild.
And like Mumsnet, the internet plays a pivotal role in the plotline of ‘The Casual Vacancy.’
My verdict: Definitely a slow starter, but soon shows its brilliance.
(Top illustration by Marc Johns)

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