Review Blog

Feb 04 2009

Nation by Terry Pratchett

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Doubleday, 2008. ISBN 9780385613705. (Age 10- adult) Highly recommended. A Printz honour book and winner of the JHunt award, Nation is a wonderful thought provoking book from an award winning author. Mau, a young islander, has paddled alone to a haunted island as part of his rite of passage to manhood. While he was there, a disastrous tidal wave has devastated his home and left him the sole survivor of his tribe. Meanwhile Daphne, distantly in line for the British throne, and travelling to meet her father, is shipwrecked by the same wave and ends up on Mau's island. Together they must try to claim back a life, and build up a home as gradually a slow stream of frightened refugees join them. Facing starvation, the grandfather spirits and a strange secret, the two band together. Pratchett's humour is low key but very effective. He softens the harsh picture of the deadly aftermath of the tidal wave and the trials of rebuilding and learning about another culture with lots of humorous incidents, like the time when Daphne serves Mau hard scones flavoured with dead lobsters, or when she learns how to make beer. It is the complex themes and thinking that make this book stand out. Pratchett says in his author's note: 'Thinking. This book contains some. Whether you try it at home is up to you'. He challenges his readers to examine culture, politics, religion and imperialism, while telling an engrossing story with two memorable main characters in Daphne and Mau, and a set of well rounded secondary characters. Mau questions everything especially the religion of his ancestors, and reluctantly slips into leadership of the small band. Daphne, too, has to accept the hardships that leadership thrusts upon her. This is a rich rewarding book that will stand the test of time and will lead to much questioning about how we look at other cultures and what makes civilisation. Pat Pledger

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