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1. Terry Pratchett (2006), Wintersmith

Ever wise in the ways of both literature and livejournal, rosamicula today announced her intention to record the books she reads this year on her journal. Even more wisely, she states from the start that she will probably "record rather than review" most of them, neatly swatting aside the burdensome obligation to write pages and pages of intellectual analysis for every book.

On those same terms, I've decided to emulate her venture: mainly because I was shocked when recently filling out the 2006 question meme to find that I could barely remember a single book I'd read for leisure during the entire year, and don't want this to happen again.

This endeavour isn't likely to be terribly wearisome for the rest of you, since I'm an embarrassingly slow reader. My leisure reading mainly happens when I retire to bed at the end of a long day spent doing nothing but reading and writing, so I'm usually lucky to get through more than two pages a night before I fall asleep. I don't intend to record my work-related reading because that would be too much like, well - work - and my responses to it would be better channelled into my academic output anyway. So I'd be frankly astonished if there are more than twenty entries in this series by the end of the year, and in any case most are likely to be fairly short. But we'll see what happens as I go along.

So, without further ado: entry #1, Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith.

I asked for this for Christmas in the hope that I could thereby repeat the enjoyable experience I'd had some years earlier with Hogfather: reading a Pratchett book in its appropriate dramatic context. Whilst Wintersmith is indeed (as innerbrat reliably informed me) about winter generally rather than Christmas specifically, this was still a very effective move. My memory of reading the book now consists as much of the pleasures of sitting on the sofa by a roaring fire with a full stomach, while my family chatter around me and the wind outside is icy cold, as it does of anything Pratchett wrote. I suppose I will now have to go and read Pyramids in Egypt, Moving Pictures in Hollywood, Maskerade in an Opera House, etc. etc.

As for the book itself, I really enjoyed it. I'd not read anything with Feegles in it before, and probably could have done without them, to be honest. But the way Pratchett treated the various themes of the book - winter itself, the cycle of the seasons, what it is to be human, and that perennial favourite, passing from adolescence into adulthood - all seemed to me to be as masterful as ever. I enjoyed meeting the character of Tiffany Aching (especially since she was new to me, and so felt fresh and interesting) but I also rediscovered how much I like Nanny Ogg. Granny Weatherwax I'm less enamoured of, but she's an important plot device, and I can see why it'll be a long time before Pratchett does anything drastic like kill her off. And one final thing surprised me: if anyone had told me in advance that the book didn't have a single scene set in Ankh Morpork or any of its institutions, I'd have tutted and downgraded my expectations of liking it. But in fact, on reading I found that this was actively a good thing. Although we must assume that the effects of the Wintersmith's infatuation with Tiffany were being felt all over the Discworld, Pratchett didn't feel the need to show us this - instead, the book had a real unity of setting, and we were able to concentrate very cleanly on the specific story of Tiffany's experiences. I felt that this really suited both her character, with its still relatively narrow horizons, and the stripped down, closed in feeling that winter can often give as well.

Overall, definitely a good 'un. I'll probably return to it again some time, and I'm a lot more likely to pick up more new Pratchett books on the basis of this one. I haven't read any since Night Watch - but I'm Pratchett-receptive again now after reading this.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
This is something I was meaning to do too, as well as record the films that I watch during the year. Like you, I found the prospect of writing a full-length review of each both unlikely and unnecessary: I hope I manage to keep this list up!

(I've added you to my friends list, if that's ok; we 'met' briefly online whilst discussing Kennedy's Primer on vonheath's LJ a while back).
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:43 am (UTC)
Oh yes - I remember that discussion! I have added you back, then.

And yes, you're right - I think I will do films, too. My thinking is that even if it's only a couple of lines, at least it will remind me that I actually saw or read the thing. Otherwise, they just drop away into blackness, which makes seeing them in the first place rather pointless, really!
Jan. 5th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
I've been meaning to do this, too. Thanks for reminding me!
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:43 am (UTC)
No problemo!
Jan. 5th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)
Oooh, I've been meaning to do this, too. And my first book of 2007 would also, in fact, be Wintersmith.

I find what different people like in the same books interesting to look a: I, personally, loved Granny Weatherwax's scenes, particularly her reaction to the kitten, and I find the Feegles very amusing. You liked the book, but for completely different reasons.
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
Then I shall look forward to reading your comments on it!

I think Granny Weatherwax is a curate's egg for me - you're right that the stuff about her and the kitten was good, and she is certainly a very strong character who contributes a lot to the plot. But there are just some things about her that grate with me. For instance, her manner of speech doesn't seem very consistent - one minute she's talking like a domineering school-marm, and the next like Jar-Jar Binks. (Well, not quite that bad, but leaning that way). She's certainly a very necessary part of Pratchett's stories, and they'd lose a lot if she wasn't there. But I guess that still doesn't mean I have to like her!
Jan. 5th, 2007 09:39 am (UTC)
Potentially spoilerrific: there is a tiny, tiny scene set in A-M, with Assistant Postmaster Groat (cf Going Postal, which I think you'll really enjoy).
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:50 am (UTC)
Is there really? Damn - I will have to thrash through the book again to see where it comes now.
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:25 am (UTC)
That's a Good Plan. callmemadam does a monthly roundup, which I might try to emulate at some point.

I've liked the Tiffany series very much so far, but haven't read Wintersmith yet. Conveniently, my flatmate buys all the Pratchetts as they appear...
Jan. 5th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
Conveniently, my flatmate buys all the Pratchetts as they appear

Handy! I think I should try borrowing a few more, to help rekindle my enthusiasm.
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:35 am (UTC)
That's a good idea, to do the book review thingie.

I'm off Pratchett for the moment. I have periods where I read about 6 in one month, then I can't stand him for a bit. I'd love it if he wrote more non-Discworld stuff. It's not that I dislike Discworld, I just think someone who's so *incredibly* inventive, imaginative and prolific should be beguiling us with new worlds from time to time.
Jan. 5th, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about new worlds. But then again, the way the Discworld has been set up gives it almost infinite potential to take on the characteristics of pretty much any setting Pterry wants to use, anyway. So I can see why he sticks with it.
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:42 am (UTC)
I am recording my reading this year too, but so far in private posts with a 'booklist' tag so as not to bore people with entries consisting solely of 'Today I finished re-reading 'The Handmaid's Tale' and started 'MicroSerfs' and the like. Should I have anything great to say about a book, that'll me made more public. :)
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:44 am (UTC)
Oh, and my beloveds have 'The Wee Free Men' and 'Wintersmith' but not 'A Hatful of Sky' which I believe is the first one of the Tiffany books. Do I have to start at the beginning if I'm going to read them, or does it not matter?
Jan. 5th, 2007 12:08 pm (UTC)
Well, I haven't read 'The Wee Free Men' or 'A Hatful of Sky', and still enjoyed 'Wintersmith', so I'd say you'll be fine. Pterry occasionally mentions bits of Tiffany's back-story in 'Wintersmith' anyway, so when you need to know something from a previous book you haven't read, he'll tell you.
Jan. 5th, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)
WFM is fun, quite interesting, and useful grounding for subsequent Aching/Feegles books. A few bits in Wintersmith (which I read a few months ago, and just re-read since Andy was given it for Xmas) make more sense when you've read WFM. I think, like Maurice..., the fact that he's writing for children is largely irrelevant because his writing style is solid.

I was a bit unimpressed with Hat Full Of Sky, though I'm prepared to give it another go. I've been finding with Pratchett in general recently (The Truth aside) that the first reading is a bit disappointing, and that they improve considerably upon second reading. Having said that, a second reading of Thud! revealed it to be just as rushed and slip-shod as I had remembered it.

God, that was geeky.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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