Friday, May 20, 2016

Book review - Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Now, I know I've already done a series review for the entire Discworld series, but this is probably the first time I've re-read Maskerade in years. It was the very first book in the series that I read, and reading it with more than fifteen years more life experience behind me, it's a very different read.

The friend who lent me the book in the beginning did so because a) he loved the series and thought I would, too; and b) he knew that I am a musical theater junkie, so would appreciate the gratuitous Phantom of the Opera references. At least, those were the reasons he told me originally. I believe now, there is a third reason - I am Agnes Nitt.

Agnes is the main character of the book, and she's frequently referred to as having a "lovely personality and very good hair". This, as many of us know, is the polite way of saying that she's not conventionally attractive - in her case (as in mine), because she's heavy. She has also gotten "a reputation for being calm and capable in a crisis." At the time in college when I was given this book, I had already established myself as being someone people could come to with their problems, or to figure out what to do when things went wrongs. Reading Agnes was a little like looking in the mirror.

I guess the biggest difference time has made for me is that, unlike Agnes, I don't really rail against the fact that I'm not the star of the show. I like being useful. I like being the go-to person when there are questions, and feeling like I can confidently give the answer. I enjoy getting to see behind the scenes how everything works (or doesn't) and finding ways to make it work better. But twenty-year-old me, reading this for the first time? I absolutely identified with Perdita, Agnes' "inner self." She gets to say all the things Agnes won't or can't, and there's nothing you can do about it. I longed for that kind of freedom, then.

I really enjoyed re-reading this, remembering (and wincing) at all the whininess that happens when you haven't figured out your place in the world and are determined to force yourself into something that doesn't fit. There's some excellent humor, of course, and lots of opera and Broadway references that I totally missed the first time through.