100 Books and Counting
This month's books are mainly pot luck as our local library is getting a new computer system and so none of the books I've got on order will be coming in until the end of the month. Therefore, I'm reading whatever I've been able to get from the library's ebook selection, books that I've been lent/given and the odd book from my bookshelves. However, as I approached this particular milestone I started thinking about what I wanted to be my hundredth book of 2021. I wanted it to be something significant, not just another book from my pile, so I considered Bernadine Evaristo's Blonde Roots, which would fit in with my aim of reading more books by BAME authors. I also considered any of the remaining books from the BBC's Between The Covers series, which has inspired much of my reading so far this year. I thought about reading something my husband had recommended (he listens to one of Radio 4's many book programmes on his way home from work and then tells me all about the ones he thinks I may enjoy). However, nothing quite fitted the bill.
Then I had a brainwave. One of the things I've said I wanted to do in amongst all the various reading challenges I've set myself this year is to give myself time to re-read some of my favourites. Over the last two years I've been treating myself to some beautifully covered copies of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and I promised myself this year that I'd re-read some of the non-Watch ones. I love Sam Vimes and so whenever I do re-read the Discworld it tends to be the Watch books I reach for. However, I was reminded recently about how good the rest of them are as well, so it seemed fitting to read one of them for my hundredth book of the year.
I haven't read Mort for about fifteen years and although I could remember the basic plot premise - Death finds himself an apprentice, I'd forgotten most of the detail. There are some wonderfully poignant moments in this book - when Death gets angry about some drowned kittens - as well as some brilliantly funny ones - when Mort is running around his father's farm in lieu of a scarecrow. However, the lines that caught my eye come from Mort's first foray into Death's job after he tries to warn a man of his impending death.
"Mort nodded miserably.
'Are you going to send me home?' he said.
Death reached down and swung him up behind the saddle.
'BECAUSE YOU SHOWED COMPASSION? NO. I MIGHT HAVE DONE IF YOU HAD SHOWN PLEASURE. BUT YOU MUST LEARN THE COMPASSION TO YOUR TRADE.'
'A SHARP EDGE.'
A personification of death shouldn't work. It shouldn't be likeable, or warm, or funny. But in Pratchett's genius hands it does and he is. He comments on the frailties and failings of humanity with a sharp eye and a good dose of understanding, but ultimately he makes it clear that he is not the enemy, he is merely the one who greets the soul at the end. He has no say in when it happens, he just turns up to meet the person.
Although this is a re-read, it's like reading it for the first time again and I'm falling in love with this character and these books all over again. I tried and failed to get my eldest son into the Discworld books, but I've been reading The Wee Free Men (with huge apologies to all Scots for my terrible accent) to the 5yo and he's loving it. I'm feeling ever so slightly hopeful that I may be creating another lover of Discworld in the family.