There’s certain authors whose names come up time and time again, yet I never seem to get a chance to read any of their work. Terry Pratchett happens to be one of those names. I’ve read some of his collaborative works, but never one of his solo novels. My local library had a copy of Nation, a young adult novel by Pratchett, so I figured I’d pick it up and give it a shot.
Alone on a desert island — everything and everyone he knows and loves has been washed away in a storm — Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s completely alone — or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird, and gives him a stick that can make fire.
Daphne, sole survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, almost immediately regrets trying to shoot the native boy. Thank goodness the powder was wet and the gun only produced a spark. She’s certain her father, distant cousin of the Royal family, will come and rescue her but it seems, for now, that all she has for company is the boy and the foul-mouthed ship’s parrot, until other survivors arrive to take refuge on the island. Together, Mau and Daphne discover some remarkable things (including how to milk a pig, and why spitting in beer is a good thing), and start to forge a new nation.
Encompassing themes of death and nationhood, Terry Pratchett’s new novel is, as can be expected, extremely funny, witty and wise. Mau’s ancestors have something to teach us all. Mau just wishes they would shut up about it and let him get on with saving everyone’s lives!
This book was everything I could have expected after reading Terry Pratchett’s work in Good Omens: in-depth characters, humor on a grand scale, and an exceedingly satirical view of society as a whole.
Pratchett does a wonderful job portraying the lives of the two main characters, Mau- a native islander who is interrupted by tragedy in his quest to become a man, and Daphne- a young English lady with few practical life skills who has the misfortune of becoming shipwrecked. Mau and Daphne rebuild a life on their island with a host of other lost souls while questioning the societal norms of their childhoods and trying to discover what it means to grow up. Watching the two main characters struggle to overcome the barriers of language, beliefs, and culture is both intriguing and heartwarming.
The writing style is humorous while also touching on deep topics like depression, racism, suicide, religious beliefs, and questioning tradition. The language is fun and colorful, pulling the reader onto the island right alongside the characters. Pratchett paints vivid imagery of island life, ranging from the day-to-day tasks of beer making and fishing, to the exploration of long past native histories and traditions. His tongue-in-cheek commentary on life back in jolly olde England also keeps readers on their toes. Although this story doesn’t end exactly the way the reader would expect, the conclusion in intelligent, heartfelt, and entirely satisfying.
I give Nation Five out of Five stars! Pratchett is a literary genius, creating yet again another work that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Enjoy!