17/01/2016

Wyrd Sisters (by Terry Pratchett)

I have enjoyed the late Terry Pratchett’s novels for over twenty years now, in particular his satirical fantasy series set on the ‘Discworld’. I have the entire collection, and am - slowly - re-reading them, interspersed with other books. It’s taking me a while, as I have to be in the right mood for this kind of book; but I’ve just completed the sixth in the series.

I last read ‘Wyrd Sisters’ towards the end of 2004 and remembered enjoying it very much. It opens with a Shakespearean touch as three witches meet.. but quickly degenerates into humour. The Discworld witches can be grumpy, argumentative and bossy; but deep down they care about other people and see themselves as healers. Granny Weatherwax is their unacknowledged leader, Nanny Ogg being more relaxed and with a large family. Magrat is the trainee, the one keenest to do things correctly.

Meanwhile the reigning King has been stabbed, and his place is taken by a slightly crazed Duke who is under the thumb of his wife. A horse canters through the forest and a baby is handed over to the witches…

There are nods to more than one of Shakespeare’s plays in this, the first of the main ‘Witches’ books, but it’s not essential to be familiar with them. There are forays into the world of travelling players, too, and some thought-provoking writing about the way we tend to remember what we’re told, or what we see on stage, even if it’s at odds with what we know to be true.

The Discworld is a fantasy world so its ghosts and witches and dwarfs are as real as the people and animals; reality has to be somewhat suspended, naturally enough, yet there’s much on the Disc that feels familiar. Pratchett was brilliant at observation, at pointing out human foibles in satire that’s lightly humorous, though not the kind to make me laugh aloud - not much, anyway.

As with many of Pratchett’s books, the plot is complex, with viewpoints switching scene by scene, and the story only gradually emerges as characters and situations become familiar. I like the style, with no chapter breaks, but those who prefer a more chronological or structured style may find it hard-going. For those who haven’t come across the Discworld yet, this could make a good starting point.

I enjoyed re-reading this very much. Definitely recommended.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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