With some books there’s love at first word, but with others it’s more like a friendship. That was the case with Nation. I grew to like it and as the story unfolded page by page I found myself looking forward to finding out more about Mau’s trials and adventures.
The story revolves around him, a boy who is about to become a man, but as he follows his people’s ritual of going to the Boys’ Island (where his abilities will be put to the test) and coming back, anticipating the great celebration that will surely await him on his return, something terrible happens: his world as he knows it, is no more. This puts Mau in a new situation, one that he is trying to make the best of, with the help of a “trouserman girl” and a handful of survivors who have their own roles to play in the narrative.
I was captivated by Mau’s determination to build a new life, by his need to question things in order to understand, by his open mindedness and caring attitude. The “trouserman girl”, Daphne, as she liked to call herself, was just too perfect to make me believe – too strong and determined and she seemed to do just the right things at the right times. The occasional humour and the misunderstandings that ensued from their strange circumstances brought a lighter note to the story. I particularly enjoyed the “beer-making” ritual and also the fact that the author took the time to explain the apparent “magic” involved in the process. Also, the stories of the gods Imo and Locaha completed the image of this fantasy tale and I liked them better than the voices of the “grandfathers” and “grandmothers”.
Even though I read this book before Phantastes, the words have been slow in coming together for the review. Maybe it was because of a feeling of disconnectedness from the story, of being somehow not as involved as I would have liked. Oddly enough, I found both books dealt with the same main idea, that of a boy coming of age through some sort of “test”, even though Mau is a lot younger than Anodos and their worlds are quite different. This goes to show that sometimes we are meant to read certain books in a certain order.
Overall it was an interesting book and I look forward to reading more of Terry Pratchett’s novels. Maybe this is just the beginning of a friendship…who knows…
*Read in April-May 2011