Eighty-six year old Veronica McCreedy is wealthy, cantankerous, manipulative, stubborn, and very, very, lonely. She lost her parents during the Blitz, and her life since then has been filled with more loss and loneliness. She shies away from getting too close to people for fear of being hurt once again.
No wonder then, that she has a curmudgeonly demeanor. Veronica lives alone in a large mansion near the sea in Ayrshire, Scotland called Ballahays. Her only help is a well-meaning housekeeper/companion named Eileen, and a gardener.After re-discovering an old box of memorabilia, Veronica wonders if she has any family left. She enlists the aid of Eileen to see if she can trace anyone. She discovers that she has a grandson she never knew about. His name is Patrick and she travels down to London to meet him. The meeting was not a success. Patrick had just broken up with his girlfriend and was at a low ebb. He was high on weed, unwashed, and lived in a grotty bedsit.After their disastrous meeting, Veronica decides that she must leave her vast wealth somewhere, so after watching a nature documentary about penguins, she decides that saving penguins will be her life’s mission. But she must check out the place first. She bravely travels to Antarctica to live at the penguin research station for three weeks. The scientists have told her not to come, but she doesn’t let that stop her.At once, Veronica falls in love with penguins. The two male scientists do not want her there, but the young woman seems friendly. After helping to rescue a baby penguin, the young woman (named Terry), seems like someone Veronica can finally confide in.What a delightful reading experience! I read the last pages very slowly… I just didn’t want the story to end.
Told via the alternating perspectives of Veronica and her grandson Patrick, the story was heart-warming, poignant, humorous, and up-lifting.
A story about caring, moral values, the ravages of war, environmentalism, human-animal connection, and love. It explores the possibility that even a heart that has been rusted shut for seventy years can be opened to love and connection.
This is a ‘feel-good’ novel that will stay in my heart for years to come.This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Berkley Publishing via Edelweiss ISBN: 9781984803818 – ASIN: B07ZN3WXGX – 368 pagesThese passages from the book will help you to know Veronica a bit better:
“It can be an advantage being slightly hard of hearing. You can get away with not answering stupid questions.”
“Human company is necessary at times, I admit, but it is almost irksome in one way or another.”
and when Veronica feels like she might cry:
“I find that my eyes are stinging severely. The second time today. Normally, they cause me no problems whatsoever. I hope this is not the beginning of some visual ailment.”
I personally prefer the cover and title of “Away with the Penguins”.
Hazel Prior is a harpist based in Exmoor, England. Originally from Oxford, she fell in love with the harp as a student and now performs regularly. She’s had short stories published in literary magazines and has won numerous writing competitions in the UK. Ellie and the Harpmaker was her first novel and “How the Penguins Saved Veronica” is her second.
Follow Hazel Prior on Twitter @HazelPriorBooks
or, visit her official website: https://www.hazeltheharpist.co.uk/