The Book I Couldn’t Put DownPosted: 6 September 2011
I’ve just finished a book which really touched me. Although I love reading and adore books of all kinds, it is quite rare that one should embed itself so deep into my consciousness and leave me with the same deep satisfaction and calm. This one has done that.
If you’ve noticed the tags I’ve attributed to this post you may have already guessed the title of the book I’m about to praise up to the heavens. However I’m not going to go on the usual ‘Terry Pratchett is my hero’ spiel as I feel that is getting a little old now… and plus, you’ve probably seen it before*. The same with the melodramatic and overlong introductions which seem to dominate all descriptions of both the things I love and the wonderful new discoveries I make as I go along. Ooops.
Isn’t it wonderful, to have a personal blog?
I picked Terry Pratchett’s Nation up quite some time ago, in the interests of completion and amid the hype surrounding the stage debut of the play. I heard mixed reports (mostly negative, I’m sorry to say) about the production but glowing, albeit biased, reviews of the book itself. A good friend warned me it was not a good choice for someone who is already depressed. It made a full round trip to London and back in my backpack and several months of sitting on a shelf before I came to the point of picking it up, dusting off the cover and beginning to read.
That was two days ago. The following morning, I had finished it.
On the surface, Nation has a pretty simple concept. At the end of a coming-of-age rite, a young boy named Mau sets sail to return to his tribe. On the way his canoe is overwhelmed by a tidal wave which lays waste to the island he calls home. He reaches the shore only to discover the life he had known shattered before him; the houses and the god stones washed out to sea and all those he knew in his past dead or gone.
However, Mau finds himself far from alone upon the island. He hears constant demands from the Grandfathers in his head; to utter the chants, to find the god stones, to uphold the Nation as its new chief. The single survivor of the shipwrecked Sweet Judy – a young Trouserman calling herself Daphne – confuses things further. As yet more people arrive on the island in search of the lives they too have lost, Mau is left to build the Nation from the ruins of its past, and perhaps more importantly, to discover who he is and what he truly believes in.
It is difficult to describe what it is about this book which engendered such a powerfully positive reaction, especially since it was meant to be terribly sad. It is, in a way, as the perfectly good happy ending you would expect doesn’t take place, because life isn’t like that. The happiness and satisfaction is of an entirely different kind – of strong foundations laid, success gained through trial and the importance of never giving up. Of victory snatched from the jaws of Locaha. Of discovering your own soul. Of good lives lived and legacies left, and the power over all of the story. Of good endings.
It totally warms my heart that Nation is a book written for young adults, for the growing mind. It still has a lot to teach the mind of a 27 year old with the kind of problems she didn’t have as a teenager. This book has a lot to say on how to deal with your problems, how to go on with your life, how to move, how to grow. This book is just what I needed right now. Bravo, Mr. Pratchett.
* My admiration of the Man in the Hat is no secret.
The photograph was taken in the Lava Beds National Monument in Tulelake, California by Albert Khaydatov. It so reminded me of the cave of the Grandfathers that I had to include it.