Away With The Penguins is one of those books I kept seeing people raving about and I think it appeared on quite a few of the end of the year Top Reads lists. I just had to buy myself a copy and I’m so glad I did because this book is such a delight! It has been selected for both the Radio 2 Book Club and Richard & Judy Book Club and I can see why.
It’s about Veronica McCreedy, an elderly lady who is contemplating what to do with her fortune after she dies. She has no known relatives and not much by the way of friends either. The only company she usually has is Eileen, her housekeeper. Her one passion in life is looking after the environment and picking up litter from the beach. When she sees a tv documentary about a project researching and protecting Adelie penguins in Antarctica, she makes the decision that she will visit the project to see the penguins for herself.
As a woman well into her 80s you can imagine that this doesn’t go down well with the scientists but they haven’t reckoned with the force that is Veronica. She is such a fantastic character. She is one of those old ladies who likes things to be just so and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. I suppose you could say she is a bit eccentric and most definitely prickly. But she has had so much to endure in her life that I could quite understand why she was the way she was. Without giving too much away, the other characters she encountered in the present day part of the story changed her – as she changed them – and a penguin chick called Pip definitely played his part.
The penguins are most definitely the other main players in this book and through one of the scientists’ blog, I learned quite a lot more about Adelie penguins in particular. They really are quite fascinating creatures and it would be fabulous to see them in their natural environment. Since for most people this will be an impossibility, can I suggest that you have a look at Edinburgh Zoo’s webcam where last week the penguins were having having fun playing in the snow. You can view that here: Penguin Cam With Veronica’s interest in looking after the planet, environmental issues are also an important theme in the book.
Veronica’s father once told her that “..there are three types of people in the world. There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference and those who make the world better. Be the one who makes the world better if you can.” I think it’s fair to say that Veronica definitely makes the world a better place for so many people.
I absolutely loved Away With the Penguins. It is just a joy to read and exactly the kind of uplifting read I think we all need to take us away from reality right now. Get yourself a copy – I’m sure you won’t regret it!
Away With the Penguins is published by Transworld Books (an imprint of Penguin Books – yes really!) and available now in all formats. Please support a local bookshop if you are able to when buying a copy. Alternatively you will find buying options for various retailers on the Penguin website here: Away With the Penguins At the time of writing, the Kindle version is on offer for just 99p (but please check before buying) and has a lovely bonus Christmas chapter included. You can buy your Kindle copy here: Away With the Penguins
From the back the book
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.
About the author
HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Her debut novel, Ellie and the Harp-Maker, is now available in paperback.