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.
This was September’s choice at Novels&Natter bookclub on Facebook. I assumed it was going to be a nice easy read featuring cute penguins. What I didn’t expect was that it wouldn’t be the penguins that captured my heart but a grumpy, stubborn octogenarian with a love of a glamorous handbag and not much else.
Veronica is everything I never knew I needed in a protagonist, she has a fabulous inner dialogue which she tactfully changes when she opens her mouth. After watching a wildlife documentary she decides on a whim she will leave her millions to a research centre studying Adélie penguins on Locket Island in Antarctica. Only after she has visited to make sure they are worthy and ruled out having any living relatives though.
Enter grandson Patrick, dope smoking, work shy and recently dumped he is everything Veronica abhors. While Veronica is annoying everyone at the research centre Patrick is sent a box containing her personal journals and while Patrick may not like the present Veronica much he loves the teenage girl he reads about.
This is where the book took a real turn for me, it became historical fiction and explored prisoners of war and the freedoms they had, sent to work in the countryside. Veronica experiences some terrifying losses and you come to understand why she has built a hardness around her heart.
The author writes with beautiful clarity from both an elderly woman and young adult male perspective. The characters really make this book, from Eileen who regularly helps Veronica at home to the staff at the research centre. All are slightly eccentric and absolutely wonderful.
There is a clear message at the heart of this book about climate change and also a little romance, some funny moments and not forgetting some very cute penguins. It really is something quite special.
About the author
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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