Away with the Penguins

Photo by Dylan Shaw on Unsplash

If ever there was a time to be away with the fairies it would be now. With the horrendous situation in Ukraine and the possible threat of Nuclear war,  at times, it's quite frankly terrifying. 

Now please understand that I'm not saying we stick our head in a book and ignore this tragedy. Of course not. We should at the very least pray, and do all that we can to help, however small that may be. Yet endlessly checking news pages for updates, as I'm guilty of, is not helpful either. That's when a cracking good book can really help.

And Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior is that book. 

It's one of those that caught my eye as I was in my local library a few weeks ago. It was a combination of three things that made me choose it. 

1, The title - how can you resist a book with a tile like that?

2. The cover - wonderfully quirky

3. The main character - Veronica McCreedy

It's the fact that she's 85 years old that really caught my attention. For those of you that have read my posts regularly, or follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I've often written about 'Mother', an elderly lady who has a taste for murder. Well, it's been a desire of mine for awhile to write a novel about 'Mother' and so I thought it would be good to read about some more elderly ladies, and see how they tick, and Veronica McCreedy did not disappoint in the slightest, she was tremendous!

This tasty titbit from the author's website, sums her up perfectly:

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

She's a tad bit rude is Veronica, but none of us are born rude, and each of us has a story, and boy, does Veronica McCreedy have a story! This book is full of twists and turns and wonderful 'What!' moments.

And it has penguins. Lots and lots and lots of penguins. But only one species of penguin appears in this book - the adorable Adélie penguin, named after a French explorer's wife. 

Thankfully, I got this book shortly before going on holiday, so I had plenty of time to dive into it, though it was only last week, when I was getting near the end, that I had a moment where I had to pause and think. here I am, closest to WWIII then I've ever been, and I'm reading about an 85 year old woman going off to live with penguins. How surreal is that? Though it was the perfect book for this time as a few pages later I was beaming at the brilliantly life affirming tale that this book tells. 

At the same time, I feel I must give a warning that it does have some heart-breaking  moments, but as one reader said 'it's filled with heart-warming ones' too. 

There was one other delightfully strange moment of coincidence whilst I was reading, and that involved cake! My wife Eva made a delicious Lime and Polenta cake recently - like lemon drizzle but with a twist. And of all cakes that one of the characters was thinking of baking - it wasn't Victoria Sponge, it wasn't coffee and walnut, it wasn't even lemon drizzle, the cake that was mentioned was a lemon polenta cake! It just made me chuckle at this wonderfully random moment. 

I'd love to hear what you think if I've piqued your interest enough to go Away with the Penguins yourself, and in the meantime I'll either read Hazel's debut Ellie and the Harp-Maker or the sequel to this penguin delight - Call of the Penguins. 

Just for fun, in the comments or on Facebook, let me know which animals you'd love to go away with if you had the chance. 

Thank you for reading, and I'll look forward to seeing you next time! :)   

Martin is a writer, baker, photographer and storyteller. He's been published in the ACW Christmas anthology and Lent devotional. He's currently honing his craft at flash fiction and you can find him on Twitter here. 

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