There are few things in the world which are universally agreed. But one of them seems to be that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are fantastic, which is why it’s always seemed so wrong that I’ve not been able to get into them.
I read Hogfather back in around 2006 or 2007, when it was adapted for TV. I was indifferent to it; I neither loved it nor hated it. I just read it. I also have a couple more sitting on my shelves. Small Gods (which I understand is a bit of an odd-one-out in the series), which I came across when a friend played the audiobooks all the way from Canterbury to Priddy (via the M4 and Bristol, which even he had to acknowledge is not a sensible way to go) and most of the way back. I enjoyed listening to it but I failed completely to engage with the book and eventually it just drifted out of my hands. And Thief of Time which I must have tried in late 2007 when I was going through a very long application process to become an apprentice clockmaker, which starred Jeremy Clockson and of which I couldn’t get past the second page.
I felt like I was missing out on Discworld.
This year, like most years, I received a book token for Christmas. This is supposed to be a boring, unimaginative present that you give when you either have no ideas or don’t know the recipient very well. I love book tokens. I love going into a bookshop with a piece of plastic and exchanging it for whatever book catches my eye. I feel like I can buy a book I wouldn’t normally choose with a book token. This time – as you’ve already guessed – I decided I was going to give Discworld another go so I found The Colour of Magic and took it to pay for it. But I sort of know the girl behind the counter, one of our local NaNoWriMo group, and she suggested that although you can read them in order, you don’t have to and she thought I’d prefer the witches – go and see if we’ve got Witches Abroad. That’s the kind of service I like in a bookshop, personalised recommendations which prove correct.
I devoured Witches Abroad in 48 hours, some of which I spent at work or asleep or watching a film. I wanted to pick it up and go back to it. I was interested in it and I enjoyed it. Finally, fourth time lucky, I understood what it is people see in Discworld. It was clever, it was fun, it was readable – it was more or less everything I like in a book. If the other Witches books are anything like it, then I’ve found a new favourite series. And if I like the other Witches, then maybe I’ll give the City Guards a go and see if I like Angua as much as I hope I do.