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Hello Hello! How are you?
I’m so happy to be back into the blogging swing of things and especially because today is my blog tour stop for Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior. The blog tour was organised by the lovely Anne Cater and #RandomThingsTour, thank you to Anne and Bantam Press for the ARC copy of the book.
Title: Away With the Penguins
Author: Hazel Prior
Published: 12th March 2020 – Bantam Press
Format: Paperback – 336 pages
“I’m not in the business of building up memories for the future,” I inform him. “The present will do.” – Away With the Penguins
Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .
Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick. 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!’).
Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies. But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.
Away With the Penguins, a novel written by Hazel Prior is a breath of fresh air. I was so excited to start reading this book and when I finally found time to get to it, I couldn’t put it down. We follow Veronica McCreedy, who at the start of the novel seems to be the proverbial old and annoyed woman, going a bit deaf and also maybe losing her marbles. However, throughout this story, we get such a different vision of this character and my heart truly ached for her at some moments.
She lives in Ayrshire in Scotland and spends her days pottering about her house, making sure that her helper and her gardener are doing their jobs properly and picking up litter on the beach. She doesn’t have any relatives and she starts to wonder where her extensive estate and money will go to after her death. One evening, she watches a TV programme about Penguins and everything changes.
Right from the start, I could see that although Veronica was alone, old and very cut off from her emotions and relationships with other people, she had a heart and a very strong will. She made me laugh countless times with her witty remarks and she is just a very down-to-earth character. I’ll admit that I first didn’t find her very approachable or likeable, but as the story evolved, I totally fell in love with her. I really appreciated how Hazel decided to portray an older character in her novel because a lot of times, protagonists are in their 20s or 30s, but no older.
I don’t think I’ve read many books – if any – where there is a wide age gap between characters, and I really enjoyed reading about the relationship that blossoms between Veronica and Patrick. I was expecting him to not be a very nice character, but just like Veronica, he really grew on me.
The setting was absolutely picturesque! It was so well written that I could actually picture Locket Island, where Veronica goes to “save the penguins” and it made such a difference to have a book set in a place so desolate as an Antarctic island, but filled with life, hope, promise and a bunch of motivated people. I immediately liked Terry and really enjoyed reading about her, seeing how passionate she was about the penguins, but also, and most importantly, helping Veronica to come to terms with some hard experiences she went through in her life, and to understand that it’s okay to cry, and it doesn’t make you weak.
Some parts of this book really got to me. I struggle with subjects that are quite sensitive like WWII, American Indian injustices, natural disasters, etc, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like reading about them, but I often come away sobbing. If you are anything like me, a poor little sensitive soul, I think you’ll like this book anyway and I’m sure it will get you thinking, just as it did me. I know that it may seem naïve to say this, but I just don’t understand how people can voluntarily and knowingly continue to harm the planet, people and animals that live alongside them, and this book brings home just how important it is to stand together and save our world.
One of the most beautiful and poignant aspects of this book was how Hazel used the flashbacks and snippets of Veronica’s young life during WWII, and superimposed it into the present, urging people to act as they did then, to come together for the same goal and not be defeated. I don’t want to go over what happens in this book too much, because I really think that it’s best to read it for yourself, but this is the sort of book that when you finish it, you can’t help but feel moved.
The diary entries were an ingenious way to explain what happened to Veronica when she was a teenager and they created a link between the past and the present, showing that she may be old and wizened but she still has a heart and feelings, she just had to find them again. The little penguins are the cutest thing in the world and right now I want to go to Antarctica to meet them because I totally fell in love, especially with little Patrick/Pip.
Overall, I adored this book so much that I already want to read it all over again, I think it is a story that will stay with me for a long time, and it has the potential to make a lot of people think about just what we are doing to our planets and the living beings that surround us. I gave this book 5 stars, and if I used a higher star-rating system, I’d give it the maximum possible because this book was just absolutely beautiful. The descriptions were vivid and thought-provoking and many things that happened in the story broke my heart just a little bit, but then mended it again. Hazel Prior is a skilful storyteller, with much to say about the world in which we live, she believes that the world can be changed if we just give it a chance, as long as hope still flutters, then anything is possible.
I highly recommend to anyone, you do not need to like any specific genre to like this book because it is an EVERYBODY WILL LOVE THIS type of book and I am going to force it on every single person in my friends and family circles because it needs to be read! I loved it so much.
Thank you once again to Anne Cater for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour and to Bantam Press for sending me the ARC copy. This free book did in no way distort my opinions.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, see you soon,
About the Author – Hazel Prior
Hazel Prior has written Ellie and the Harp Maker and Away With the Penguins. She lives on Exmoor. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist.
You can find more about her here:
If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can buy it here: