By Hazel Prior


This is my first review on this site for a fiction book - how exciting!

There are three types of people in this world, Very. There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference, and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, if you can.

Away with the Penguins is a lovely, heart-warming winter read. Veronica McCreedy is in her 80s and lives in a mansion by the sea in Scotland. She’s lonely and wondering what to do with her fortune after she dies.

As far as she’s aware, she doesn’t have any living blood relatives. She loves cups of tea and watching nature shows, and when she sees the plight of the Adélie penguins she decides to take a trip to Antarctica to see what good she can do in the world…

When she joins the penguins, things get deep. The conditions are harsh, the (human) company is frosty, and Antarctica is the perfect place for reflecting on a life well lived.

The book is described as “this year’s Eleanor Oliphant”, which to me is overstating it slightly (Eleanor is a tough act to follow) but I can see the similarities. This book, like Eleanor, is a lesson in empathy: a window into the heart of someone you might have found weird or antisocial.

Away with the Penguins lets you into the heart of a stubborn older lady – someone you might think of as fussy or irrelevant when you initially encounter her, given the way we are socialised to think about older people in much of the West. This is a lovely tale that emphasises the importance of recognising older people as people with a rich history and listening to their stories.

Easy reading with an important message and a protagonist who will capture your heart, this is a book to read with a hot chocolate in front of the fire.

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