24/09/2006

Maskerade (by Terry Pratchett)

'Maskerade' is the 18th 'Discworld' book by Terry Pratchett, and one I thoroughly enjoyed both on first reading about seven years ago, and more recently. It's a novel that features the witches, primarily Agnes Nitt, a rather well-built girl from Lancre who wants to be a singer. She travels to Ankh Morpork to join the opera, and is followed shortly afterwards by Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, who hope to persuade her to return.

Of course that's only one small part of the book. As ever, there are many intertwining sub-plots, the most encompassing of which is a kind of murder mystery at the opera house, loosely spoofing 'The Phantom of the Opera'. There's also the publication of Nanny's book of promiscuous recipes for which she hasn't received any royalties, and a great deal of general discussion about the opera - what is real, what is expected, what goes on behind the scenes. Oh, and an investigation of why the opera house, despite its success, seems to be losing money at a rapid rate.

I don't usually laugh aloud with Pratchett, but I smiled several times while reading the book and even chuckled a couple of times. His humour isn't for everyone: it's wry, ironic, and often requiring some knowledge of literary works. He has a great eye for detail and the ridiculous nature of much of daily life as we know it, and transports this loosely to the Discworld. So in addition to providing a bit of light relief, there's usually much to think about during and after reading one of his works.

This book didn't cause me to pause too often, but did provoke some questions about the nature of reality, and how much effort people are prepared to make to entertain or deceive an audience.

Probably better read after a few of the other Discworld books (in particular those featuring the witches) but complete in itself nonetheless. Recommended.

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