Monday, October 21, 2013

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett Read Along Part 3

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, then I want a very good reason why not, written out in triplicate and signed by your Mum! This week the links to the other posts can be found at Over The Effing Rainbow.

This week we read through to the end of the book, which is the end of the series . . . Wailey! Wailey! Wailey!  :(

1. Well, now. It seems Letitia is much more than just a snivelly 'princess in the tower'... What do you think of the way she handles the ghosts at Keepsake Hall?

It seems like she has been doing some seriously good witching, even though she has not had any formal training. I find this rather impressive.

One of the things that I really love about Sir Terry is that he always makes his characters three-dimensional. Rather than giving us a stereotypical weeping drip to hate, Letitia is actually a very caring person who usually tries to do the right thing. So, she made a very bad mistake because of her love for Roland and her jealousy of his relationship with Tiffany, but she tried very hard to make amends and was certainly devastated by the damage that she had caused. We have all been young and in love, so I think we can overlook her stupidity in this one case, especially as she was so instrumental in resolving the issue. I was particularly impressed by her running out into the night to rescue poor, drunken Roland from the pigsty. I believe that she will make a fine witch, if she is not too busy using all that helpful advice from Nanny Ogg.

2. "We do right, we don't do nice..." Miss Smith turns up again - in another unusual way - and she's got some eye-opening words for Tiffany here... Do you agree that Tiffany's got to grow up a little more still, or should she just ask for help with the Cunning Man?

I think the most important lesson we learn as we grow into adulthood is that we have to be able to do things for and by ourselves. This true independence is what marks the end of childhood. I think that Tiffany has gone a very long way towards it by the beginning of this book, but she is still aware that the older witches are there, as back up, if she needs them. It is not that she does not want to do things by herself, but that she has always felt that safety net in the back of her head. This has allowed her to be totally fearless in her approach to the world, but until now she has never had to consciously stand totally alone and take charge. The Feegles helped her against the Fairy Queen, and then Granny Weatherwax intervened when she had defeated the Hiver, bringing her back to the world of the living, and later sent the Feegles to get Roland and rescue the Summer Lady. This time Tiffany has to do everything for herself, with no other witch to help her.

I love the way that the older witches give her support and advice without telling her what to do. They convey their total confidence in her ability to triumph without being terribly specific and so give her the self-confidence to make her own plan. This is a very powerful way of enabling a young person and shows their great wisdom and understanding of the human mind.

3. Preston earns even more trust from Tiffany, and she makes an interesting point about whether or not the Cunning Man will be dangerous to him... Do you think the two of them can take him on?

I find Preston very funny and endearing. I love his loquaciousness, blue-sky thinking and how Tiffany responds to finally finding an intellectual equal on the Chalk. I sincerely hope that she grabs him before some other woman sees what a catch he is!

I thought her judgment that he would be immune to the Cunning Man was pretty spot on because there does not seem to be a single dark thought in his head. I do not want to belabor my point, but this will also make him a good partner for Tiffany who has to deal with some pretty dark things at times and who can get a little negative in her thinking. I think that together these two could do anything at all, so the Cunning Man has no chance to defeat them.

4. Speaking of taking on the Cunning Man, he's getting closer - and in a very alarming way. This is certainly different, and it's keeping Mrs Proust involved. Do you think she might be the exception to the "kindly assistance" rule among witches?

I guess that different witches have to work in different ways, depending on their own skills and the people that they assist. It seems pretty obvious that a lot of people in Ankh Morpork know that she is actually a witch, but they turn a blind eye to her profession because it is not very fashionable. She also has a lot less of the usual witching to do because there is a lot less livestock in the city and a lot more people who can help themselves. I am quite sure that most people are living in crowded conditions, so that there is usually someone to help with the infants, geriatrics and the infirm. There are probably fewer disputes about who owns a specific pig and there will be lots of cheery old ladies who are happy to boil water and help to birth babies.

I can only assume that Mrs Proust keeps herself busy by helping all the other witches in the world by providing their Boffo, rather than doing the usual mundane witching in her neighborhood. However, she is certainly very much in evidence when the going gets tough. She has no hesitation in responding to the warder’s request to visit the prison and in warning Tiffany of the Cunning Man’s new body. 

5. O-ho, so the Duchess has a secret of her own... Are you surprised?

Not at all, as it is fairly common for people from low origins to try to forget where they came from (*cough, Annagramma, *cough). I suppose we could also forgive her for being influenced by the Cunning Man and also for wanting everything done properly for her daughter. She seems to have had an encounter with Mrs Proust before, which might explain her animosity towards witches when we first meet her, or perhaps she is simply frightened that Tiffany will see through her facade with her witchy powers. As with Letitia, she is revealed to be fairly decent in the end rather than being the archetypal evil stepmother from fairy tale.

6. Tiffany defeats the Cunning Man! What did you make of this scene?

I was a little surprised that it was such a simple thing to defeat him. After all the hints about the hare running in to the flames I did not expect it to be quite so straightforward. However, there was a challenge in Tiffany’s need to overcome her own fear and also to keep her mind focused so that he could not take over her body. I had predicted that Tiffany would basically outsmart the Cunning Man not only because that has been a repeated motif in this series, but also because he is so blinkered by his own rigid thinking. He would never think of risking his body in such a way and so she has a major advantage over him. Somehow I feel that there is an underlying message here about self-righteous and dogmatic thinking by certain religious people and how it will always be defeated by the freethinking, good at heart, atheist, but I might be wrong.

In the end, there was a very ritualistic feel to it, as it seemed to mimic the rites of passage that many cultures use to mark a child’s growth into adulthood. Tiffany took direct control of her own life and faced down her fears of inadequacy by taking a leap of faith in herself, believing that she had come to the right conclusion. That she also married Letitia and Roland at the same time, shedding her attachment to him during the process, added to the feeling of cleansing and a new beginning.

Other Thoughts

This has been my favorite book of the series because it has challenged so many of our assumptions about this world. It has been dark and unpleasant, with some genuinely horrible moments, but it has also shown us some wonderful character work and overturned our understanding of some of the long-standing players. To see Rob Anybody so heartbroken at the thought of his mound being attacked was so stunning because it went against everything that we had come to expect from the Big Man. The development that we saw in Roland, in particular, was very rewarding because of it was unexpected and yet so natural and truthful. It was good to see that he was also forced to grow up and become a man.

All together now! “Tiffany and Preston, sitting in a tree, discussing the philosophical difference between surgery and witching, and arguing about which is most efficacious in the treatment of a limping sheep!” :D



  1. Sue, some great answers here! I agree that this has been my favourite of the series also. I liked that things came together so well at the end and there was a resolution for everything.
    I think Letitia will make a great witch - she made a mistake because she felt insecure and that's something she needs to work on but otherwise I saw a different side to her when she was on her home ground.
    Like you I think Tiffany needed to sort this by herself, especially because she was on her own patch and it almost had a coming of age ceremony feel to it. I liked that a lot of the witches gathered at the end - they're not as tough as old boots as they like to make out.
    Preston is such a good character - he's not at all phased by anything that Tiffany says or does and is quite capable of holding his own which makes him perfect for her.
    Yes, the Duchess had a secret - but it wasn't that bad really! Again, like the witches, seeing her home revealed a different side to her nature and one that was much easier to like.
    Now you mention it - it did seem easy to defeat the Cunning Man (clearly not as cunning as everyone likes to think). I liked the use of the jumping the flames to marry the couple - can't say I would have enjoyed that particular ceremony myself but it was intriguing to read.
    Lynn :D

  2. Letitia seems to have that instinct to help people with a minimum of fuss that is a witch's primary requirement, so I'm sure that she will do a lot of good now that she feels secure.

    I liked the way the older witches were there to give moral support and to clear up the mess if needed - it sort of answers the question that Preston asked "Who watches the watchers?". Witching is a very solitary profession, but they do all keep an eye out for each other, so the cackling is kept to a bare minimum! :D

    I suspect that he gave himself the name . . .

  3. Haha, yes, I never thought of that. Henceforth I shall be known as 'the incredibly intelligent and sometimes droll blogger formerly known as Lynn' ahem, or probably more precisely, 'the blogger who takes 1001 guesses before finally landing on the correct answer by pure coincidence' - or is that a tad over the top. I dunno. What do you think - does it really work?
    Lynn :D

  4. Sorry I'm late to the party - the dog ate all my book read along reminders. He had indigestion for a week!

    Haha! Yes, all that great advice from Nanny Ogg! How I would love to hear some of her advice, even though I am a happily married woman. The entertainment value of her stories alone would be priceless.

    Preston & Tiffany make a good match. Even if they never become a couple, they are a formidable team against whatever badassery idiot walks onto their Chalk.

    I like that you point out that the Duchess is not the only one who has tried to forget her 'low' origins - and looked the sillier for it later.

    Haha! I love your little rhyme there at the end. You threw in 'efficacious'. Nice!

    1. If I had 10 cents for every time a pupil said that a dog ate their homework! :D

      I see Nanny Ogg as a naughtier version of Dr Ruth (if you remember her). Perhaps she should write Fifty Shades of Black!!!

      Thank you - I am always trying to find ways to use long words - it makes me look brainy! :D


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