Monday 29 June 2015

Reading Challenge 2015 - Tiffany Aching

I'm a huge Pratchett fan, so it's a little shocking that I hadn't previously read the Tiffany Aching books. Husbit bought and read the first and told me dismissively it was for children and it sat on the shelf and for the longest time I left it at that. 

And then this reading challenge came along and I got my hands on a copy of a favourite childhood book (Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak) and I remembered that I love children's books and thought I should at least try Wee Free Men. And then I had to track down the other three, and then Pratchett died and I was shocked and saddened but delighted to have finally read these incredible books.

All these books cover the following challenges:
    - unread book by a beloved author
    - funny book
    - book with non-human characters
    - book with magic
    - book that made me cry 

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Published May 2003

I mentioned Outside Over There above because this has a similar plot: younger sibling kidnapped by fey beings and needing rescue. It's a story I love - I made my big sister read Outside Over There  over and over again and Labyrinth is one of my favourite films - so it's probably not surprising I adored this telling of it.

Tiffany Aching is a wonderful character. She made me feel better about myself and she made me want to be better in myself. She's definitely the kind of role model I want to be able to point my future children towards. The talk of flint and chalk was exciting to me because I know a bit about stone (and remember nearly setting the carpet on fire when I was experimenting with flint-knapping when I was about Tiffany's age). Her memories of her granny had me in tears at the train station because I felt I was living them. Her common sense and logic and love of words made me feel close to her. 

I had a distinct feeling of a critique of novels where the main character is marked as special from birth and where magic is a gift rather than something earned through hard work.

Published May 2005
Additional challanges covered - colour in the title (skyblue - stretching slightly)

Apprenticed to an experienced witch - the curious Miss Level - Tiffany's introduced to the confusing and often cruel world of competitive acquaintanceship. Added to that, her abilities have attracted attention from a potentially dangerous source. But she's prepared to face her problems herself, using her logic and listening to the unspoken advice of those around her.

Granny Weatherwax is my favourite Discworld character and in this and later books I loved seeing this other side of her - and of Nanny Ogg too (I'd have liked a little more Magrat. I regret that she's faded with marriage and motherhood).

I love that even with the distance her heart remains in the Chalk. I love that she's not afraid of hard work - never a martyr to it, even if she doesn't want to do it. 

September 2007
Additional challenge covered - one word title

Tiffany is now apprenticing with Miss Treason, a wonderful character. Annagramma, one of the younger witches with whom Tiffany had a rivalry in the previous book - has matured somewhat but is still a good adversary and a stark contrast to Tiffany.

This follows the themes of the previous books, of being responsible and dealing with mistakes and of helping those less able to help themselves. This time, Tiffany has done something stupid with very serious consequences she could not have foreseen (although possibly someone could have given her a bit more advice beforehand...), so she has to clear up the mess. She can't shy away, can't complain it's not fair: she is responsible in both the sense that it's her fault and that she's in charge. But she's still young and is still being used as a pawn by the older witches, which is interesting as you watch them weave their intrigues from the other angle.

Published September 2010
Additional challenges - colour in title (midnight blue is maybe less stretch than sky?)

This is certainly the darkest of the four, and possibly the darkest of all the Discworld books. For a young adult book, it handles some very adult themes - with care, with compassion, with anger and, of course, with humour.

Tiffany is witching at home and in her own right now. This time, the greatest enemy comes in the form of fear-driven hate. It take the form of hatred of witches - or anyone who could be accused of being a witch - and resembles our world's witchy history, but the same effects of fear and hate can be seen in so many areas of the world today that it struck a very deep chord.

I found the interaction between Tiffany and the Kelda particularly touching in this book, given their previous relationships, and the new lady of the land and her family were beautifully written - Pratchett showing yet again that there are many different ways to present a strong female character and that what looks like weakness can be strength.

This book felt like a goodbye, but not one without love nor hope. Miss Smith was a delightful surprise.

I once read that Terry Pratchett had said: "The opposite of funny is not serious. The opposite of funny is not funny." That comes across very strongly throughout the series.

No comments:

Post a Comment