Nation by Terry Pratchett
|Nation by Terry Pratchett|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: It takes a good few pages to really get going, but Pratchett's first non-Discworld for a while is really rather good once it hits its stride. Lots of things to say about love, religion and power and lots of rooms for laughs too.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: September 2008|
Somewhere in the South Pelagic Ocean, a devastating tidal wave all but wipes out the Nation. On his island, only Mau is left - he had been on his rite of passage to becoming a man, and was paddling home in his canoe when the wave struck. Caught between boyhood and adulthood, he's now without a soul. But is that any bad thing, when the gods would unleash such destruction upon people?
Daphne (really Ermintrude, but you have to grasp your re-naming chances when you can) is a minor royal from Britain. The ship carrying her is wrecked by the wave and she ends up on Mau's island, equally discomfited by events. How does one apply the rules of etiquette in a situation such as this? Less encumbered by cultural superstition than Mau, Daphne applies knowledge gleaned from Royal Society lectures to guide her through.
As other survivors struggle up to the island's beaches, and as they learn to communicate with one another, these two equally resourceful but very different people must learn to set aside their cultural totems if they are to hope to begin to rebuild the Nation. But will the Grandfathers ever allow Mau to hear himself think? And will Daphne cope without her pantaloons?
It takes a good few pages to really get going, but Pratchett's first non-Discworld for a while is really rather good once it hits its stride. There is the usual sly wit underpinning the main narrative and readers aren't deprived of the Pratchett-standard comic set pieces. In Nation, the ship's parrot was my particular favourite, fighting a war of attrition with the island's grandfather birds and missing no opportunity to shout show us yer knickers. The world is, as ever, a parallel world - a similar environment to the colonial times of the nineteenth century, but different enough to allow flights of fancy.
It's witty and wise, but it leaves its young readers enough room for a newly formed opinion or two as they think about its themes of love, loss, loyalty, courage, religion and nationhood. Terry Pratchett is not always a great favourite of mine, but I enjoyed Nation immensely and I'm sure they will, too.
My thanks to the nice people at Doubleday for sending the book.
Readers who liked Nation might also like The Tribe by Valerie Bloom, set this time in our world, and telling the story of Columbus and the Taino people. Those who liked the fantasy side might like the alternative Victorian reality in Ancient Appetites by Oisin McGann.
Nation by Terry Pratchett is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2009.
Nation by Terry Pratchett is in the Top Ten Beach Reads For Teens.
Nation by Terry Pratchett is in the Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2010.
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