Archive for June, 2010

Book review: ‘Nation’ – Terry Pratchett


Gary Carr as Mau in Mark Ravenhill's adaptation

Terry Pratchett’s Nation takes place in a world not too different to our own – but it’s not the Discworld either. Hence my misgivings about reading it. Being as my exams are over and I am now ostensibly free to read what I want for a few months, I thought I should probably read it (and give it back to the person who loaned it to me in 2008).

Here’s a rough synopsis of the book from , quite literally, the horse’s mouth:

For a fuller version, Waterstones provide this.

Having just finished it, I have to say my doubts were unfounded. While being set some time in Britain’s past when ‘map-makers would run out of red ink’ and therefore in a pseudo-real-world, Nation retains Pratchett’s style, formula, wit and philosophy. Particularly his philosophy on religion. Much of the book focuses on the protagonist Mau’s changing perceptions and understandings of what religion and belief are and why they are necessary.

Pratchett describes his own beliefs here:

A point of criticism is a lack of differentiation between some of the characters in this book compared with those from his others. Case in point is Mrs Gurgle, an old, mysterious and extremely powerful woman who rings loud bells of Mrs Google in Witches Abroad.

Despite this, Pratchett spins a fantastic yarn which satisfies right up to its unusual ending—  unusual for a Pratchett and unusual for many other books. The two protagonists, Mau and the ‘ghost’ (white) girl Daphne (was Ermintrude) part ways. The final chapter of the book is set ‘today’, with the story having been retold to two young children who protest the unfairness of Mau and Daphne’s parting. The teller helps them come to the realisation that Mau and Daphne had acted in the best interests of their people and not of each other or themselves. This kind of moral is not uncommon in a Pratchett tale, but it’s delivery in this instance is.

Perhaps the message is that the desire to sugar-coat the world is childlike, it is time to wake up.

Overall I was thoroughly impressed by the book, though it does not compare to many of the mid-span Discworld novels.

8/10

In looking for the sleeve image I came across another review of nation on WordPress here.

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