Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. —C.S. Lewis
People give us stuff mind you. People can be very generous to witches. On bakin’ days in our village sometimes I can’t move for cake. —Spoken by well-fed veteran witch, Mrs. Ogg
Picture this: a book group. Be patient now, it isn’t just ANY book group. This is a group of friends who like to meet up once a month for food and conversation. Maybe they don’t always have dinner, sometimes they go hiking (probably with a bulging picnic basket). The point is that the book is not the point. The group craves heavy food and light reading and the book is just an excuse to meet up. But these groups need our guidance too! There is no shame in wanting to get together with friends for couscous, canapés and crème brulee without bringing a sheaf of notes to aid in discussion. Well it’s Book Group Buzz to the rescue, and I brought along an army of rowdy little Scotsmen.
The Wee Free Men is the first book in Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, which follows the progress of a young witch from age nine to sixteen. This book is an Alice in Wonderland-esque (if Lewis Carroll were actually funny and not simply bizarre) journey of Tiffany who is the wise and resourceful nine- year-old daughter of sheep farmers. She has just discovered her vocation and must pass a portal into the land of dreams, where the evil Queen holds sway. Here she will undertake the first mission of her career, aided by the Nac Mac Feagle, a raucous clan of tiny, tattooed, rusty-haired ruffians. These lads are what I imagine my father’s ancestors were like: kilt-clad, liquor-sucking and perpetually sporting or administering a shiner.
Pratchett is hilarious, but his books are not forgettable fluff and are engaging enough to revisit. You may find yourself asking, on occasion, “What would Tiffany’s Granny Aching, the venerable shepherdess, do in this situation?” And the answer will inevitably be: cuss and apply turpentine. But you will be surprised by how often that is the only sensible course of action.
My husband thinks that readers and critics of J.K Rowling may enjoy comparing the Harry Potter series with the Tiffany Aching books. Unlike Rowling, Pratchett’s gift is not for story arc but for the wildly weird. The Nac Mac Feagle are the funniest people under six inches tall that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. They make fairies seem positively humorless. And the Borrowers? Yawn.
I am hoping that somewhere in the land where all our well-loved characters reside when they are not lounging around Hogwarts, Middle Earth or Narnia, Hermione Granger and Tiffany Aching will meet up and talk shop. If Tiffany tickles your fancy there are three more books in her series: A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight. And if you want to read more Terry Pratchett then start now because he has written gobs.