Wednesday, 3 March 2010


I'm only doing two challenges this year - until the Once Upon A Time one starts on the 21st. that is - and both of them are going well. Two books read for the Year of the Historical and now two books for the Terry Pratchett one. This is book two, Nation, for the latter challenge which is being hosted by Marg at Reading Adventures.

Mau is returning to his island, from Boy's Island, when the wave strikes. When he reaches home he will be a boy no longer and will join the ranks of the single men. Somehow he survives the giant wave but when he reaches his own island he finds that no one else has: he is alone. Devastated, he has to bury his family and friends at sea and copes with this by mentally withdrawing. But someone is helping him by leaving food. Mau has no idea what's going on until he follows a trail through the forest and finds the ship. And a girl.

Ermintrude is a Victorian English girl on her way to join her father, who is the new govenor of one of the island chains in the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean. She too is an only survivor... but from a ship this time. Terrified, she tries to shoot Mau, who actually has no idea what she's doing as he's never seen a gun before. Or a trouserman for that matter, which what his people call white people from the northern lands.

Ermintrude decides to become 'Daphne' and slowly but surely, Mau and Daphne learn how to speak each others languages and find out about each others cultures. More people turn up and Mau finds himself in the position of chief, taking responsibility for his people's safety and well being. Daphne, intelligent and resilient, finds out more than she ever wanted to know about delivering babies and feeding old women with no teeth, but the upside of it all is that she is freer than she's ever been in her life.

As the scattered survivors become a community and things settle down there is still one over-riding worry. The cannibalistic 'Raiders' are destroying all in their path and Mau knows they are on the way and that his fledgling community is not strong enough to withstand an invasion. What's to be done?

I always find it hard to review books by Terry Pratchett as his work always leaves me simply thinking, 'This is brilliant - read it!' He is just *so* insightful and clever and makes me think things I'd never thought to consider before.

'And when your father comes in his big boat? What will happen to us then?'

'I... don't know,' said Daphne, which was better than telling the truth. We do tend to stick flags in places, she had to admit it to herself. We do it almost absent-mindedly, as though it's a sort of chore.

'Hah, you fall silent,' said the priest. 'You are a good child, the women say, and you do good things, but the difference between the trousermen and the Raiders is that sooner or later the cannibals go away!'

'That's a terrible thing to say!' said Daphne hotly. 'We don't eat people!'

'There are different ways to eat people, girl, and you are clever enough to know it. And sometimes the people don't realize it's happened until they hear the belch!'


Nation is not one the Discworld books and is thus a very different kettle of fish. And yet there are similarities. Most of Pratchett's books have strong female characters who are often striving to fulfil their destinies or even simply to be taken as seriously as the men. Tiffany Aching springs to mind, 'Malicia' from The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents or Grimma from the Bromeliad trilogy - all of them want their intelligence to be appreciated while still retaining their basic feminity. I admire Terry Pratchett for doing this - he so gets it and that's very unusual in a man.

What else? Well this book will make you think hard about religion and gods, responsibility, respect, freedom... the list is endless. Pratchett writes 'thinking' books and it's rather sad, imo, that he gets very little respect for that from the literary world. I remember several years ago reading an article in The Telegraph where a book reviewer had to read the current top ten fictional books - it might have been the top twenty, I'm not sure. One of the books was a Pratchett book... I can't say for sure which one but I think it might have been Going Postal. The reviewer in question completely refused to read it saying, 'I'm sure Terry Pratchett's legions of fans are thrilled that he has a new book out, but I just can't bring myself to read it'. How totally closed-minded and stupid. And, without a doubt, his loss.

This is brilliant - read it!

Other opinions:

Sarah's Book Reviews


Jodie Robson said...

I didn't enjoy Nation as much as the Discworld books, but reading your review, I found myself agreeing with everything you say. I guess I like it more than I thought I did at the time! And Daphne is great.

DesLily said...

it sure sounds like one that you enjoyed a lot!! got to love those books when they happen! I'm glad you had another good one!

Cath said...

GeraniumCat: Daphne is great. I love Pratchett's female characters, he's one of the few male authors who can write real women, imo. Alexander McCall Smith is another one. Nation is definitely a more serious book than he usually writes but there's also plenty of humour running through. I wasn't sure at first but ended up loving it.

Pat: yep, *another* good one. I'm due a dud pretty soon, I just know it. LOL!

Ana S. said...

"Brilliant - read it" about sums it up, yes :P

I feel so so sorry for that reviewer *shakes head*

Anonymous said...

Cath, what a great review, and he does write wonderful female characters. He really does deserve more respect and the reviewer you mentioned really is just showing his/her ignorance. A.S. Byatt is amongst his legions of fans and she is one of the most cerebral novelists and critics I can think of. I think in years to come his work will stand the test of time and continue to be read by a constantly growing legion of fans. Lovely to read your thoughts on Nation.

Cath said...

Nymeth... I actually feel sorry for that reviewer too. To be that closed-minded is a very sad thing indeed.

Book pusher: I find it sad that some people are so snobbish about Terry Pratchett... usually they're people who haven't read him... which is the way of the world of course. Criticise what you don't understand even if you haven't tried it. I too think his books will stand the test of time.

Marg said...

I find Pratchett hard to review some times too! Thanks again for participating in the challenge!

Jill said...

I am so glad you enjoyed this. It is definitely one of my favorite books of all time!

Cath said...

Marg: my pleasure. I realise I haven't added my links to your original post so I must do that.

Darla: I can see why it's a favourite with you. I was amazed at the depth of the story, though why I should be I don't know as I know what Terry Pratchett is capable of.