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Buy Away with the Penguins: The heartwarming and uplifting Richard & Judy Book Club 2020 pick by Hazel Prior from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
Book DetailsISBN: 9781787630949
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Book Review: Away with the Penguins: The heartwarming and uplifting Richard & Judy Book Club 2020 pick by Hazel Prior - Reviewed by CloggieA (13 Apr 2020)
4 stars Away With The Penguins (also titled How The Penguins Saved Veronica) is the second novel by British harpist and author, Hazel Prior. When home help, Eileen Turner brings forth from Veronica McCreedy’s back room a padlocked wooden box, she unwittingly sets in motion a series of events no seer could have predicted.
On seeing the box, Veronica (please call me Mrs McCreedy) is taken back some seventy years, not that she has any intention of divulging the private contents to a very curious Eileen. But internet-savvy Eileen is useful for finding someone to investigate the possible existence of as-yet-unknown family.
After all, Veronica is almost eighty-six, and has to consider the dispersion of her considerable wealth after she departs this life. Not that there’s any sign of that happening: Veronica is hale and healthy, with an excellent memory, she continues to assure everyone (even if they know otherwise): “My memory is faultless. I can recall dozens of lines of Hamlet from my schooldays.”
When those enquiries bear some not-at-all-satisfactory fruit, Veronica looks elsewhere for a beneficiary to her estate. Environmentalist Robert Saddlebow’s latest program, The Plight of Penguins, directs her focus onto the poorly funded researchers of Adélie Penguins on Locket Island, Antarctica, but she needs to check for herself that they are worthy of her largesse. Eileen dutifully arranges flights and ferries.
Meanwhile in Bolton, twenty-six-year-old Patrick is virtually unemployed (save Mondays at the bike shop), has just broken up with his girlfriend, and been evicted from their flat, when a letter drops into his mail box. Apparently, he has a grandmother, but she’s not the sweet, cuddly, baking-type granny he’d hoped would soothe his broken heart.
This old woman is stern and steely, cantankerous, and he quickly realises he hasn’t made a good first impression (he’d been consoling himself about the break-up by smoking a joint). Later encounters are little better, but he realises he would like to know more about the family he never knew.
Patrick is surprised when Granny V entrusts him with a (clearly significant) relic from her past. And when he hears she’s away with the penguins, he wonders how the scientists at the field centre are coping with an eighty-six-year-old who’s spicy as a vindaloo and stubborn as a wild goat.
This is a charming tale about a somewhat reclusive old woman whose past has broken her trust in humanity. It takes a harsh climate and a flock of fascinating arctic birds to break down her resistance. It’s perhaps a little predictable and what happens in the Antarctic does require a degree of suspension of disbelief, but it’s still a delightful, feel-good read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House UK.
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