42. Hogfather 

It has been an unfortunately ill few weeks so I am slightly behind on my posts! Hogfather is the last novel I’ve pulled off the shelf from this year’s designated ‘reading challenge‘. If you’ve been with me the entire year, I would just like to say well done and thank you for the patience you’ve given me while I’ve really been figuring out how it is I blog. It’s been an odd year and I have well and truly not read the 24 novels I intended to but I have read a great deal more than I anticipated.

So, the Hogfather. My copy of this has been kicking around the house for a long time. I’m sad to say that in my brief waltz with Pratchett when I was younger I started this but never finished it. But this time was very different and I am happy to say that recently I started rifling around in my favourite charity shops after the rogue Pratchett novels.

Hogfather – Terry Pratchett

I do love a little silliness in my day to day. I love a little mischief. I love Death roaming around the skies of the Discworld pretending to be the Hogfather.

Maybe I should explain if you aren’t familiar. The Discworld is a world hurtling through space on the back of a giant turtle. It is home to a vast array of peoples, wizards, vampires, fairies and of course include anthropomorphic personifications such as Death and the Toothfairy. Death is of course a very gravelly person, he is a walking skeleton with a big black cloak and tries very hard to understand what it is to be human.

The Hogfather is very much like Santa Clause, and Hogswatch, yes you guessed it, is very like Christmas. And for some terrible reason the Hogfather has gone missing on Hogswatch’s eve and to stop everybody noticing, Death is filling in with his trusty assistant Albert (who is assisting by drinking the Sherry and eating the pies).

Meanwhile a previously undiscovered bathroom has appeared in the Unseen University so naturally, the wizards are prodding around that while some very strange things are going on, such as an appearing Verruca Gnome. Mr. Teatime a paid assassin is doing something quite shady with a group of thugs in a very odd place. Susan, who as it happens is Death’s granddaughter, is dragged in because she is specifically told to stay out of it by Death. Which of course, never works.

Hogfather is a really good balance of storylines. It’s not exactly a quick read but it’s some stellar world building which keeps giving and for something to get you in the Christmas spirit I’d recommend it! Who doesn’t like a group of Carol Singers who will only NOT sing for money? Brilliant fun and I’m pretty sure I’ll read it again next year.

HO HO HO.

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41. The Green Mile 

Oh hey, I bet you thought I’d forgotten about you! Fortunately not. It has been a turbulent few weeks as winter always brings the desire to hibernate shaking hands with existentialism. But I finally got good and stuck into this novel and finished it within a few days. This was my first Stephen King novel and honestly I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. This wasn’t helped that I haven’t watched the film adaptation of this novel either so I walked into this narrative with absolutely no clue what it was about. I enjoyed it, but I’m entirely sold on Stephen King. I think reading another novel will help me decide.

The Green Mile – Stephen King

The Green Mile was originally a serial, which of course I didn’t realise until I read the afterword. Ultimately it was put together as a novel but some of that recapping can get a little grating. Fortunately the Green Mile is laid out as the memoir of the retired correctional officer Paul Edgecomb so this recapping I can sort of forgive – even if it kind of disrupted my reading flow a bit.

Paul Edgecomb is finally writing down his time on E Block in Cold Mountain Penitentiary. E Block, famous for the inmates destined for Old Sparky – the electric chair – and the green mile itself, a nickname for the long walk along the green linoleum tiles towards an unfortunate end. The bulk of the novel is spent within Edgecomb’s memoir of day to day life on E Block, the duty of care to inmates the guards have, and of course a little of Edgecomb’s personal life. It is a meandering novel that seems to grasp at quite a few strings but manages to tie them up ultimately. I’m not entirely sure if I believe it is a neat knot, but it is a knot.

John Coffey arrives at E Block, like most of the inhabitants, destined for the electric chair. But despite his size and the manner he has arrived at Cold Mountain something doesn’t sit right with Paul. Coffey spends most of his time in tears and as Paul pokes around into Coffey’s case and questions start to rise about whether or not he is guilty.

Characterisation is the harrowing strength of this novel, the inmates are distinct in their mannerisms, personalities, and actions. But there was something else that was striking, and something I was not expecting and that was the gentle touch of the surreal. Perhaps I am revealing how little I know King’s work, but I was not expecting surreal or magical realism to appear within Cold Mountain Penitentiary.

The ending is also a bit of a mixed bag of emotions. There are a few beautiful lines that will probably stay buried in my mind for a while and I am not ashamed to say that this novel drew me to tears because of a particular character. Mr. Jingles. Mr. Jingles is a very clever mouse with oil spot eyes. He turns up in E Block as if he is looking for something or someone and becomes very close friends with one of the inmates. This mouse, reminded me of one of my own with a sudden sadness that surprised me.

I hadn’t thought about Clarence for a while. He was a mouse who would chatter away constantly. He knew his name and spent most of his time asleep in my hoodie, or scampering around my person putting his face into my gauges and trying to burrow into my hair. He was the mouse that lived the longest out of all of them and genuinely looked like a little old man when he passed and going greyer in the face. He was remarkable in that he was the most unafraid creature I have ever encountered from the day I took him home he was launching himself from the cage into my hands with complete trust that I would catch him. It was a bitter grief loosing him. He was very unusual and kindred spirit to Mr. Jingles. So it follows that when Mr. Jingles reappears near the end of the Green Mile – I sobbed my heart out.

I think there is something to be gained from this novel even if you haven’t had an unusual pet. I’m not sure if I will return to it but I may and I will certainly give another King novel a try.