***Here be spoilers. Consider ye self warned. And also me being maudlin***
Reading the newest Terry Pratchett has always been something of a ritual for me. He’s my favourite author and getting to hold a new Pratchett book in my hand was always an wonderful mix of happiness, anticipation and satisfaction.
I have a terrible long-term memory. I only remember the big things, but I remember my first read of Pratchett books. Maybe because I usually do it the same way. I drink coffee with them, and eat crisps. I take time out for pure enjoyment and selfish unadulterated me-time.
Reading The Shepherd’s Crown was an extraordinarily emotional experience. I had my usual first Pratchett of the year feelings, plus that knowledge that it was the last time I’d do it. After I turned the final page, I’d never again hold an unread Terry Pratchett in my hand.
Maybe for the non-Pratchett fans, this may seem a bit over-emotional, but the Pratchett fans will understand. He was comfort reading. Whenever I’m miserable, I read a bit of Pratchett to lose myself in something special, and it always works. Terry Pratchett was a huge influence on me. Not just my writing, but also the way I think. His stories represent everything that makes literature a force for good in the world.
The Shepherd’s Crown was an odd book in many ways. It made me cry for one thing. The book deals with the aftermath of Granny Weatherwax’s death. She dies quietly in her sleep and it is done perfectly. And like every fictional character we love, I grieved for her. And grieved some more because she was real in every way that matters. And of course, it’s hard not to draw parallels with Sir Terry’s death and be reminded at every turn, that he is gone. Except that while Granny died of old age at the end of a long life, Sir Terry went far too soon.
But after Granny’s death, the book takes an odd turn. It had so many of my favourite characters, including Tiffany Aching who I love, but it was missing something. There’s a note at the end of the book that explains Sir Terry’s writing process which was to tell himself the story and then fix and fiddle until it had to be pried from his hands by his publishers. And this is where it was different. It lacked the polish of his previous books, and that made me grieve more, because of what it should have been. I don’t know how much was his writing, and how much was his editing team but the second half lacked spark and bite. I feel guilty writing this because it feels like I’m criticising. I’m not. I’m grieving for a man I never met, who by the rights of everything that is good in the world, should have had more time.
It’s left me feeling maudlin and miserable and in need of comfort reading. Except that’s not going to help today.
RIP Sir Terry and thank you. I owe you so much.