Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior
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.
After reading Ellie and the Harp-maker I did wonder how Hazel Prior was going follow up on her debut novel which I really loved. I need not have worried Away with the Penguins (Black Swan) is a fabulous life-affirming story.
We are introduced to Veronica McCreedy who is 85 and who is recluse and lives in a large remote house by the sea in Ayrshire, Scotland. Straight away I was drawn to Veronica as there was just something about her. That feeling that she feels that there is still so much to offer the world and that her age and encroaching deafness should not be a barrier to that.
Veronica has no financial concerns as she does seem to be secure and there is the large house, there is Eileen her assistant and then there is the gardener but apart from that there is no-one in her life and no relatives that are close by so she spends most of her time alone. She can be found wandering the beach picking up the litter that visitors have discarded. Veronica really does have a few choice words for people who litter her beach. What Veronica does enjoy though is to spend time in front of the TV watching wildlife documentaries with a cup of her favourite tea.
It is while settling down to watch one of the wildlife documentaries that something changes for Veronica, the programme is about Penguins! It is a moment for our character that changes everything.
When Eileen suddenly finds that Veronica does indeed have a relative living not too far away she sets off to meet Patrick who is her grandson. The meeting does not go as well as she hoped, at the end of the day she wants to leave her estate to someone but it clearly is not going to be Patrick.
But there is Penguins on Locket Island. But Antarctica is long way from the coastline of Ayrshire in Scotland. But this is Veronica and she wants to save the Penguins and she will not be deterred even by those scientists who advise her that her age is against her. Veronica is on a mission. But does she save the Penguins?
This is a beautiful novel about self-discovery and you the reader will go on a journey with our character who has a big heart despite the sadness from her past and although she may be a bit cranky at times, you want to make sure that her dream comes true. A gorgeously written and well researched story that really makes Hazel Prior a great storyteller.
Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior was published by Black Swan on 22nd October 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org