Nation by Terry Pratchett

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 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!

Hardcover, 410 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by Doubleday

This week, instead of devouring just new and recent releases, I decided to review a not so new book.
  Since it's publication Nation has in fact been turned into a play. Written by the author of The Disc World series, Nation
retains Terry Pratchett's wicked humour, but where I've found his other books to be just a great laugh, this one's surprisingly touching.
  The story revolves around two main characters, Mau and Daphne.  The story begins when Mau loses his entire tribe in a massive Tsunami, which also washes Daphne up onto his island. 
   The survivors experience a rocky start to their relationship - with one nearly murdering the other on sight...misunderstandings do happen ;-)
   Daphne's character is made up of layers of loss, out-dated manners and a new awakening to who she really is when you strip away everything non-essential. Despite their home being Mau's island, she's actually the first on the stretch of land after the tidal wave hits, because Mau is still in the middle of the Ocean when she gets washed up.

    “Captain Roberts went to Heaven, which wasn't everything that he'd expected, and as the receding water gently marooned the wreck of the Sweet Judy on the forest floor, only one soul was left alive. Or possibly two, if you like parrots.”

   Daphne and Mau are wonderfully complex characters; both are in their mid teens and at the time of the tragedy, were each expected by their societies to go through a ritual of marking their transition from childhood. 
   Mau is determined to prove himself as the warrior his family hoped he'd become, and he tries to accept the strange Daphne as part of his tribe of two. As the story progresses more characters finally arrive on the scene, and we find that Mau the brave warrior is the perfect combination with Daphne, the potential future Queen of England.

Together they face great challenges with humour and dignity:

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“You are very clever,' said the old man shyly. 'I would like to eat your brains, one day,'
For some reason the books of etiquette that Daphne's grandmother had forced on her didn't quite deal with this. Of course, silly people would say to babies, 'You're so sweet I could gobble you all up!', but that sort of nonsense seemed less funny when it was said by a man in war paint who owned more than one skull. Daphne - cursed with good manners - settled for, 'It's very kind of you to say so.”

they also know which battles can't be won (with humour and less dignity):

“Don't look back!"
"Why not?"
"Because I just did! Run faster!”

This quirky tale isn't your typical fantasy novel. Although there's a hint of romance, Terry Pratchett's writing focuses on the friendship that develops between Daphne and Mau. I loved the characters, the strange world, the oddly compelling story... and the whole experience of reading this book. It made me laugh and cry, not much more I could want out of a book :-)

Currently rated 4.01 stars out of 5, on Goodreads.

(If you've been following the blog for a while you'll know two things about me: my fondness for the "Keep Calm" posters and...well, if you don't know the second, stick around...)


  1. Love the new blog design! This book sounds really good, I have a Terry Pratchett book waiting to be read at the moment, which I'm looking forward to. I've only read one of his before, but I'm definitely going to be reading more, they make me smile!

    1. I love love love your blob design!


  2. Thank you Sabrina!
    Smallgirl, thank you! Good to 'see' you again :) I've had Snuff on my bookshelf since it first came out, and now Dodger's about to be released and I've still not got round to it!


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