Book Review: “Nation”

Cover of "Nation"

Cover of Nation

“Nation” by Terry Pratchett

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Coming of Age

Source: Bought

Summary from Goodreads:

Alone on a desert island — everything and everyone he knows and loves has been washed away in a storm — Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s completely alone — or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird, and gives him a stick that can make fire.

Daphne, sole survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, almost immediately regrets trying to shoot the native boy. Thank goodness the powder was wet and the gun only produced a spark. She’s certain her father, distant cousin of the Royal family, will come and rescue her but it seems, for now, that all she has for company is the boy and the foul-mouthed ship’s parrot, until other survivors arrive to take refuge on the island. Together, Mau and Daphne discover some remarkable things (including how to milk a pig, and why spitting in beer is a good thing), and start to forge a new nation.

Encompassing themes of death and nationhood, Terry Pratchett’s new novel is, as can be expected, extremely funny, witty and wise. Mau’s ancestors have something to teach us all. Mau just wishes they would shut up about it and let him get on with saving everyone’s lives!


For some really bizarre reason I had it in my mind that this was supposed to be a hilarious book. So for the first 100 pages or so I was completely confused and  had a hard time enjoying the book because it wasn’t hilarious. Things went much smoother when I gave up waiting for the hilarious parts to show up. [There are definitely some silly and funny moments sprinkled throughout the book though.]

This book was a nice breath of fresh air. Sure I enjoy reading about people that are similar to me. It’s easy to relate to them and their struggles. It’s comfortable and familiar. All of that is fine but it’s good to occasionally step out of your comfort zone. Nation is a different YA book. It’s about different people dealing with very different circumstances than me. I liked it though. Isn’t reading about different places/struggles one of the points of reading? To experience things you might not normally? Nation definitely accomplished that.

It’s a very different coming of age story. Mau is right on that pivotal moment of actually becoming a man when things go horribly wrong. Even though things are about as bad as they can get for him, he keeps going. His identity and culture are so important to him, he does everything to keep them alive. He became a leader so naturally. In some books, it feels like the leader is the leader because the author says so. Mau evolves into a leader because he knows what needs to be done and wants to take care of everyone. He continues to stick with it even when he’s tired and scared like a real leader does. Daphne definitely grows up as well. I think her story is more humorous. Even though she’s shipwrecked on an island in the middle of the ocean, she still attempts to be as proper of a lady as she can. Eventually she adapts well to the culture of the others. Her growth is brought to light at the end. She truly appreciates and loves the people she lived with for months and did everything she could to take care of them when she left.

The ending was well done. Things don’t end “perfectly” or like a happy ending. It does seem like a true to life ending though. Mau and Daphne don’t fall in love and get married or insert your favorite cheesy ending here. They go their separate ways but they allow their experiences influence their new lives. That’s how life changing influencing experiences work. It makes you see things a bit differently.

The bottom line? Recommended for the YA lovers out there. It might be different and out of your comfort zone but it’s well worth the read.


7 thoughts on “Book Review: “Nation”

  1. I loved this when I read it, although I wasn’t going in expecting non-stop hilarity, so I can see how that would be wrong-footing. I’m glad it picked up for you, though!

    Have you read Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching novels? They’re on a little more familiar fantasy ground, but they’ve got a similar sensibility, and a similarly interesting and sympathetic main character with her head screwed on right.

    • I haven’t read them. I’ll have to check them out. I’ve read a couple of Pratchett’s books so far and have enjoyed all of them. Thanks for the rec!

  2. At first I was like “why would she think it’s supposed to be hilarious?” And then I remembered you’d read one of TP’s Discworld books, which mostly ARE hilarious. So, yeah– I can see why you’d think that. I’m glad you didn’t let it’s non-hilarity keep you from finishing it! 😀 And I’m glad you liked it, too.

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