I should say up front that I've probably rated this higher than I otherwise would have because it's the last Discworld book, because the author has paI should say up front that I've probably rated this higher than I otherwise would have because it's the last Discworld book, because the author has passed away. However--that's not because I don't want to speak ill of the dead, or even because I know that if he'd lived longer he would have refined this more and I can see the potential.
Lemme back up and explain.
As a Discworld book, as a Tiffany Aching book, as a Witches book... it's a good story. It isn't the kind of good story that made me love Discworld or Tiffany Aching or the Witches, though. It has plot, it moves along well--but there's a depth, a tendency to look into the dark spaces and the blinding lights of life and the world around us, that just never quite connects. That's been the case with several of the recent Discworld books, and it continues here. It's a good story--but that's all it is.
That said, this is more than a Discworld book or a Tiffany Aching book or a Witches book. It's the final book. It's less a chapter in the history of Discworld or Tiffany or the Witches than it is an epilogue. And in that sense I like it quite well. It feels like something coming full circle, like a graceful leavetaking. Like a goodbye. There is a small afterword that tells us Pratchett had more plans for Discworld; he didn't intend for this to be The End. If he'd been able to continue on and The Shepherd's Crown had remained in basically this form, it would have been disappointing. As it is, it gives the sense of a completed series--which is unusual when a series is ended by the author's death. I'm grateful for and appreciative of the closure....more
I bought this for my daughter, intending to give it to her for her eighth birthday; I’ve just finished reading it through ahead of time so that I knowI bought this for my daughter, intending to give it to her for her eighth birthday; I’ve just finished reading it through ahead of time so that I know what I’m giving her.
I really like it–as a starting point. There’s some stuff that will need further discussion between her and myself, but it’s a good solid foundation to build on. Which is what I was looking for, so that’s good.
As far as content: Menstruation and puberty, but not sex yet, which is just fine by me at this age. Lots of body-positive messages, although the illustrator doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo. (Some of the girls pictured are shorter or taller, but they all seem to have the same basic silhouette, which isn’t really… diversity.) The non-period-specific hygiene and health portions are things that my daughter probably mostly has already heard, but she’s always eager to learn more and I think she’ll still get plenty out of those parts. My main criticism there is that there’s a fair amount of ableist/classist privilege; there’s plenty of “all bodies are good bodies and however you are is OK” but that’s not followed up with the recognition of how a body (or a mind, or a life situation) can be different in ways that make, say, running a mile every day or eating lots of leafy greens difficult. The assumption is that if the kid wants to follow these guidelines, they can do so, which… not so much. I understand that there’s not space to get into every challenge a person could face in that department, but it would be nice to at least make an effort to acknowledge that just because you don’t (or can’t) do things exactly like the book says doesn’t mean that you’re not taking care of yourself.
But then that’s why I say this is a starting point. I don’t plan to just hand her the book and leave it at that; I’m going to have some conversation with her beforehand and encourage her to talk to me about the things she reads.
When I have the chance and available funds, I’m planning on checking out the related emotional self care book. When she gets old enough, I’ll probably get her volume 2 of this as well. I’m pretty pleased with it overall....more
How did Ophelia spend her girlhood? According to Clarke, Polonius was appointed a diplomatic emissary, at which point Ophelia was fostered with her foHow did Ophelia spend her girlhood? According to Clarke, Polonius was appointed a diplomatic emissary, at which point Ophelia was fostered with her former wet nurse's humble family until her parents' return to Denmark. It was a sizeable portion of her youth, and this path was chosen for her with an eye to physical development, with refinement and ladylike manners to be studied later.
Much of the book takes place in this setting, and frankly it's fairly unremarkable. I'll give this portion three stars--neither particularly bad nor particularly good. It seems to have a bit of a tenuous connection with the character we meet in Shakespeare's work.
Once Ophelia is retrieved by her birth mother and returns to Elsinore, however, things start to get interesting. Clarke does a much better job of laying the groundwork that would lead to the events of the play here, and since it begins to involve more characters we recognize it's easier to be interested in the intricacies of their interactions. Four stars for this part.
A classic whodunit: A humongous diamond is looted by a corrupt British soldier from a Hindu temple in India and later bequeathed to his young niece asA classic whodunit: A humongous diamond is looted by a corrupt British soldier from a Hindu temple in India and later bequeathed to his young niece as a birthday present. It is duly presented to her on her eighteenth birthday; she wears it at a dinner party that evening and declares to all and sundry that she will keep it in an unlocked cabinet in her sitting room; to her great surprise and evident distress, the diamond disappears in the night without any sign of a forced entry into the room or any disturbance to alert those nearby. The great Sergeant Cuff of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate, with the assistance of the young lady's cousin and suitor Franklin Blake and the steward Gabriel Betteredge. Add to the mix a trio of Indian conspirators, a maid with a shady history, some paint, a rival for Mr. Blake, a pool of quicksand, Robinson Crusoe, an amnesiac doctor, an overbearing poor relation, and some opium among many other factors, and you've got what is reputed to be the first English detective novel.
And it's fantastic, honestly. It's quite long, but worth the investment of time. The solution is not entirely unexpected, but getting there is an enjoyable journey.
I was also struck by the structure. This is, technically, an epistolary novel--but you almost forget about that for a while. Much of the book is presented as various characters' written accounts of their roles in the business as recorded at the request of Franklin Blake, apparently collecting a complete narrative after everything is said and done. The first narrative is Betteredge's, setting everything up, and it is... what, half the book maybe. Then the action moves outside of his sphere and another narrative picks up. From there, in general each new entry becomes shorter and more informative as we draw closer and closer to solving the mystery. I found it an interesting way to subtly underscore the increasing pace of the plot.
As a story, it's... a bit threadbare. A crime is described, several people sit around and think about how it might have been done, each presents his oAs a story, it's... a bit threadbare. A crime is described, several people sit around and think about how it might have been done, each presents his or her theory, one of them is right. Not much there. As an introduction to a character--this is Miss Marple's first intro--it's more interesting, and definitely whets my appetite for more....more