by Terry Pratchett.
When life really sucks the best thing to do is to escape. And there is no better escape than to leave this drab round world of ours and to journey to the Disc, where problems are recognisable but surmountable and the journey is inevitably entertaining. Pratchett seems to be a regular antidote to reading doldrums for me, when all else fails a Discworld novel will usually provide some relief and this was the case with Maskerade.
I have over recent years read many of Sir Terry Pratchett's witty and wise novels but I also have some gaps in my reading. I came to the Disc late in my reading life, only discovering the full merit of his work in recent years, unlike my daughter who has grown up reading Pratchett, or my partner who has been a dedicated fan since the 80s. It was in order to overcome some of these gaps that I recently picked up Maskerade. While a satire on opera, musicals and celebrity culture, this novel is also a convincing mystery and something of a coming of age tale.
One of the Disc novels to feature the Lancre witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, this instalment sees them travelling to Ank-Morpok on a dual mission; one to sort out an unscrupulous publisher who has taken advantage of Nanny in the publishing of her infamous cookbook, and secondly to track down and, hopefully fetch home young Agnes Nitt, who Nanny sees as a potential third member of their coven. Things are getting a little strained since Magrat traded in the broomstick to be a queen: "You need at least three witches for a coven. Two witches was just an argument."(p22). The venal Greebo, Nanny's evil tom cat gets his moment in the spotlight. I have a great fondness for Greebo, living with three cats I have a great appreciation for Pratchett's feline descriptions: "...the most vicious and cunning a pile of fur that ever had the intelligence to sit on a bird table with its mouth open and a piece of toast balanced on its nose..." (p.22), or elsewhere; "To Nanny Ogg he was merely a larger version of the little fluffy kitten he had once been. To everyone else he was a scarred ball of inventive malignancy", a quote I also have on a coffee cup with a Paul Kidby illustration:
http://www.paulkidby.com/mugs/index.html , a great discworld site from which our family has purchased a number of great gifts for Pratchett fans.)
Essentially a re-telling, and a send up of the Phantom of the Opera, Maskerade lets Pratchett flex his muscles in the sphere of the mystery/crime novel without ever losing sight of his characteristic humour in face of human absurdity. Granny's telling query about what a person would take from a burning house tells us as much about ourselves as it does about the characters in the book.
Pratchett does write the most amazing women, well rounded, believable, admirable and inspiring women, perhaps his female characters have reached a pinnacle in the creation of Tiffany Aching or Glenda from the night kitchen at UU but Maskerade also offers an entertaining ride in the company of some truly wonderful women, the witches of Lancre are not to be underestimated. A great book. Oh an possibly my favourite line:
"Nanny Ogg found herself embarrassed to even think about this, and this was unusual because embarrassment normally came as naturally to Nanny as altruism comes to a cat."
It has been more than a month since I read this one, so I will keep my comments short. One of the reasons for picking up this previously unenjoyed novel was the recent Discworld convention in Sydney, Nullus Anxietas, http://ausdwcon.org/ . I had never been to such an event before this one but I am really glad that we did go, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and one that we are keen to repeat. As a result of the convention I decided to catch up on another gap in my discworld experience and finally read The Last Continent, how could I attend Nullus Anxietas and not have read The Last Continent.