Laurie Gray's Reviews > Nation

Nation by Terry Pratchett
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's review
May 12, 2012

really liked it

In his young adult novel Nation, British fantasy author Terry Pratchett explores coming of age when laws and social structures cease to exist. A Tsunami in the fictional Pelagic Ocean strands a native boy, Mau, and shipwrecks on the same island a girl named Erminitrude from someplace akin to Mid-Victorian England. Surrounded by death and destruction, Mau and Erminitrude overcome their fear and distrust of each other and work together to save themselves and other survivors and misfits who arrive on the island in the wake of the great wave.

Mau assumes the position of chief, not through force or manipulation, but purely through service. He sacrifices his own well-being for the good of the weakest individuals within the group and courageously defends his new tiny Nation against pirates and cannibals. Erminitrude changes her name to Daphne and begins to appreciate the nobility of those she once dismissed as “uncivilized” and recognizes the savagery of some supposedly civilized people.

The novel is rich with allusions and a humor that appeals to teens and adults alike. There are some mystical/fantasy elements and an occasional scene with mild profanity or nearly profane slang. The book begins with the native creation myth of Mau’s people, including an introduction to the ancestral gods of life and death. Through the myth, the reader gains exceptional insight into Mau’s thoughts and motives and the gift of examining traditional western values and ideas from a different point of view.

The first chapter feels slightly confusing until the worlds of Erminitrude and Mau converge on the island. From that point forward, Nation builds momentum by blending high-seas adventure with thoughtful contemplation. Overall, Pratchett offers an enchanting tale of self-discovery and triumph of the human spirit.

Laurie A. Gray
Reprinted from the Christian Library Journal (Vol. XIII, No. 1, April 2009); used with permission.

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