Away With The Penguins by Hazel Prior Book Review

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Title: Away With The Penguins
Author: Hazel Prior
Pages: 368
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: June 16th 2020 (first published March 5th 2020)
Genre: fiction

About the book
Eighty-five-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit—and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica's closed heart starts to open.

Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about.

I bought this book on a whim and hadn't read or even seen much about it, but I figured that anything with penguins in it could only ever bee a good thing, right?!

Well, I wasn't wrong and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was an absolute delight; it's charming, heartwarming and an all round beautifully told story that will give you all the feels. I love the fact that there was an important environmental message within the story too, and it's clear that the author is passionate about what she writes about.

The characterization of Veronica & Patrick is fantastic - Prior has told the stories of both characters so well, and their personalities leap off the page. I love it when a character feels 'real', you know? I can imagine exactly what Veronica & Patrick look and act like as if they were people I knew in real life, and loved that about the book. It made me so much more invested in them and I read on excited to see how things panned out for the two of them.

Veronica - despite her gumpy moodiness - is extremely likable and her character give me major A Man Called Ove vibes, which is never a bad thing (in fact, it's one of my favourite books of this year). She is relentless, feisty and doesn't take no for an answer, but I loved all of that about her and knew from the very beginning that she was a character that was going to have a huge personality. Throughout the book, Prior expertly allows us to get to know Veronica on a deeper and more personal level and we read about her life story - which happens to be quite heartbreaking - and we see why she has become so emotionally shut off and why she has such a huffy exterior. It gives her character so much more depth, and despite her ill-tempered mood, us, the readers, can connect and sympathise with her on a much more sentimental level.

And then there's Patrick, who happens to be so lovable but he sort of just stumbles around aimlessly with no real purpose in life and without any direction or real ambition. He sort of just gets through each day. He hasn’t had the best life and up until the point of being introduced to him, he kind of just gets on with it. But he’s good natured and considerate and tries his best to do what's right, despite his unfortunate upbringing and life treating him fairly poorly. It's difficult not to room for him; he's funny and kind and is in desperate need of a break, yet, he never feels sorry for himself for too long.

One of the main criticisms in this story, for me, is the romance in this book. I don't want to give any spoilers, but the romance aspect of this book was just a bit rushed and a bit too sudden for it to be plausible, but the romance isn't a major aspect of this book and it is very brief so it doesn't spoil the story too much, and don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, it was just a teeny bit unrealistic and could have done with Prior fleshing out that aspect of the book a little more for me to be fully engaged and on board with it.

This is just an all round, well written, engaging and entertaining story. I loved reading about the penguins (I want a baby Pip). I loved reading about the three scientists and I loved reading all about Antartica. The way it's told is just fantastic and every chapter was a joy to read. It was quirky and greatly life affirming and it's hard to imagine who wouldn't enjoy this story - besides, who doesn't love penguins?

Verdict: ★★★★

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