Earlier this week, I came home from work to find Terry Pratchett’s Nation sitting on the kitchen table with firm instructions to “read.” So I did. I admit I was a teeny bit skeptical about the book, entirely based on the fact it’s set on an island following a tidal wave, is about survivors attempting to organize themselves into a successful community, and I have a highly contentious relationship with lord of the flies. But it was Hanna who left me the instructions, and Terry Pratchett who wrote the book, so I was willing to give it a go. And I’m glad I did — ’cause it was charming and funny and the end was even a teeny bit mind-bending.
Nation is set in a universe much like, but not quite, our own. It tells the story of two young people, Mau and Daphne, and the friendship they form in the wake of a natural disaster that ends up altering their lives — and the world — forever. Mau is the sole survivor of his island community when a tidal wave washes through his corner of the ocean; Daphne is the only human survivor of a ship from ‘England’ caught in the same tidal wave and washed up on Nation. The two have just begun to form a cautious friendship when other survivors of the disaster begin to arrive, drawn by the smoke of their campfire and the spiritual significance of Mau’s island home. Eventually, of course, the new community comes back into contact with the larger world and make a place for themselves within it — but not before they have been challenged to re-imagine history and the shape of the world around them.
And of course there’s the parrot. And the tree octopus that can count all the way to fifteen (and loves to eat crabs). And an evil man whose mere presence makes bunnies nibbling at seaweed start to fight one another. And Mrs. Gurgle, who gets a set of gold false teeth that shine like the sun. And Grandmother, who likes to say “Ahem” and is told off, in the end, in the most satisfying way.