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Nation by Terry Pratchett

Today we Icelanders wish each other a Happy Summer. The third Thursday in April is the designated First Day of Summer in Iceland, and a public holiday, one of the few that are non-secular. In the era when people only had experience and superstition to rely on for weather forecasts rather than scientific meteorology, one of the ways in which the weather the coming summer was predicted was by putting a bit of water in a shell on the eve of the First Day of Summer, and going out just before dawn to check if the water had frozen over. If it had, the summer was supposed to be a good one. If not, then God help us.

I am pleased that today is a holiday, because while I have a cold and a sore throat and feel rather tired, I am not really sick enough not to go to work. Having today off is going to give me a chance to rest and hopefully I will be feeling better tomorrow. I have already finished two books today, both, I hasten to add, ones that were already half read. Below is the review for one. The other will follow tomorrow or on Saturday.

Year published: 2008
Genres: Adventure, coming-of-age, for children and teens
Setting & time: A tropical island in the southern hemisphere of an Earth in a universe parallel to our own; 19th century

Terry Pratchett is one of the few authors whose books I have read who are equally good at writing for children and adults. The Nomes trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell books and the Tiffany Aching books are just as enjoyable as the adult Discworld books.

Nation is no exception. The setting is somewhat southern Pacific-like, although the sea in which the Nation’s island is located is called The Great Pelagic Ocean, and is located on a parallel universe version of our own world. A rag-tag group of people, the survivors of a tsunami, gather together on a small island under the leadership of Mau, the only survivor of the Nation that lived there before the tsunami hit. He was halfway through the ritual that would have seen him accepted as a man, and is bewildered and angry, but also intelligent and resourceful and together these people start to make a Nation of their own. Added to the mix are a British girl castaway with quite a destiny waiting for her, mutineers from her ship, cannibals led by a madman, and the god of death.

All of this comes together to make a very entertaining story, by turns humorous and grim, that ends up being not just the coming-of-age story of a boy and a girl, but also of a nation.

Rating: 5 stars. Buy it, read it for yourself, read it to your kids or better still, get them to read it for themselves.


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