ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior. I’m afraid I’ve had this proof for far too long but, as is sometimes the way, I didn’t get to it at the time and I lost my opportunity to slot it in. When I saw a follow up book was on the way (Call of the Penguins will be published in November) I knew I must get on and read it as I was sure I would love it………and I was right. My thanks to Ruth Richardson at Transworld for the proof copy of the book.

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.

I have to admit to being initially a little unsure what to expect from Away with the Penguins but I came away from it having experienced an absolutely lovely, uplifting and moving read. It’s the story of Veronica McCreedy, 86 years old and living alone in a huge house in Ayrshire, Scotland. She’s a little irascible and set in her ways, and her only company is Eileen, her cleaner, and Mr Perkins, her gardener. When Eileen finds a locked box in Veronica’s house it brings back memories that lead her to search for family connections, and a chance change to the television schedules leads her eventually to Antarctica. This feisty lady is going to save the penguins!

What a gorgeous story. Veronica is one of those characters who you know from the outset has hidden depths. There’s a lot more to her than meets the eye and even though she’s a bit tricky at times I couldn’t help but love her. There are some fabulous supporting characters too, all of whom help Veronica to have the time of her life.

I particularly enjoyed the Antarctic setting. I’m always drawn to remote and inhospitable locations in books and it was fascinating to learn more about the South Shetland islands via the fictional Locket Island and the scientists at the field camp there. I also learnt a bit about penguins too!

Away with the Penguins is a delightfully quirky and unusual read. Although I could never have guessed where the story was heading, I found myself being drawn further and further in as it progressed and I just loved how it all worked out in the end. I’m thrilled to note there is a follow up book coming later this year. I can’t wait to get back to Veronica and find out what she does next.

HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Hazel is the author of Ellie and the Harp-Maker and Away with the Penguins, which was a #1 bestseller in ebook and audiobook. Call of the Penguins is her third novel.

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