Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

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Location: New England, United States

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Monstrous Regiment...a review

And now for something completely different...but first, the painting of the day...

George and the Dragon
(9x12", Oil) Private Collection
I've always loved Terry Prachett's universe. His writings always remind me of the British 'Carry On' movies of the 1950s and 60s. And being Australian, Britian has infused my upbringing with humour and the odd in-jokiness that I find most refreshing when faced with the current onslaught of bland American sitcoms and 'Reality Shows'. More honest, somehow. Anyway, these are my thoughts on 'Monstrous Regiment'...

By Terry Pratchett

2004; HarperCollins.
Massmarket Paperback, ISBN 0060013168; 461 pages; Price $7.99

Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – (c) February 2006

In a slight detour from the normal shenanigans going on in, around, and sometimes as far from, his usual haunt in Ankh Morpork, author Terry Pratchett has gained new territory in the sublime. The novel in question is his ‘Monstrous Regiment’.

According to the known historical archive of many countries throughout the world, women participating in wars has been a known, but little spoken of, fact. For the last several thousand years, women of all walks of life have dressed in the garb of men – sometimes flouting strict social morals, religion, and laws to do so – and gone off to fight alongside their male brethren in armed conflicts. Their reasons are many and varied. Some have performed heroic feats or held posts of extreme responsibility; others have slogged along as foot soldiers and batmen beside husbands and brothers. Sometimes known, sometimes not; sometimes coming home, sometimes not. It’s a fascinating study.

The ‘Monstrous Regiment” of the title is taken from Protestant Reformer, John Knox’s treatise “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), an effective Middle Ages rant and condemnation against governments run by women. There seemed to be a plethora of female rulers at that time in history; among them Bloody Mary (The Catholic Queen Mary 1 of England). In Scotland, the Roman Catholic regent of Scotland, Mary of Guise, ruled as regent for her infant daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. It appears that, being full of religious fervor and social outrage, the ire, and perhaps the fear of women, lead Knox to aim his written diatribe at the Queens Mary in his native country. “Women in control” has been a constant fear of the male half of humanity for many centuries, all over the world. One has long wondered why: perhaps they just ‘don’t like to share’ or are afraid of the unknown or what they don’t understand. Perhaps it’s all three. Mr Pratchett deals rather neatly with these occurrences in the novel – the ‘awkwardness’ of men in dealing with the ‘women dressed as men, bless their silly little hearts’ is palpable, and satirized nicely without being hurtful to the ‘image’ of men.

In ‘Monstrous Regiment’, Pratchett takes his usual good-humored prod at the whole situation. A girl cuts her hair very short, pulls on men’s trousers and runs off to find her brother Paul, something of an idiot-savant, and save a family situation and her future. All of this occurs with more than a passing nod to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, and the British comedy movie “Carry On Jack”, both in theme, misrepresentation, comedy, and bawdiness. It’s also very hard not to hear the strains of the standard from the ‘Pirates of Penzance’, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”, when reading about Lieutenant Blouse.

In the story, Polly, a barmaid in her father’s famous Duchess Inn, realizes that without her brother to inherit the inn after their father dies, Polly will be left to fend for herself and lose everything she is entitled to. Even if those entitlements only amount to running the family business and a roof over her head. The law states that women can’t own or inherit property or variations thereof. And since Paul has joined the army and disappeared, it’s up to the entirely capable Polly to go and find him and bring him back to hearth and home. After studying the soldiers frequenting the The Duchess’ bar, she masquerades as a young man in her brother’s borrowed clothes and joins the army as a private. She’s actually very good at it. Things get stickier from situation to situation as the novel progresses, tongue firmly in cheek, with Polly and her fellow ‘soldiers’ finding confidence and freedom they’d never previously known: saving the day, as well as their country, and standing up for its dignity. Whether they get found, out and how they deal with it is something you’ll have to find out for yourself. Far be it from me to spoil the ending for any reader or any of the fun along the way.

A reader might also detect a fine waft of relevance to the world’s situation of the conflicts, and their overwhelming imbalances, between powers fighting in the Middle East today. Not to mention every other political conflict that’s involved fighting or the promise of fighting over the centuries. A fine ‘waft’, mind you. It’s thin, but it’s there.

With all of Mr Pratchett’s usual cutting wit and elegant turn of comedy, the novel is still underlined with a subtle pathos that isn’t usually detected in the author’s previous works. One wonders if in his secret heart of hearts, Mr Pratchett is also secretly rooting for the ladies successes and subsequent confounding of the men that they encounter. His understanding and ready sympathy of the plight of women over the centuries is recognizable, no matter how subtle the subtext. Perhaps he prefers just fairness in answer to the world’s social imbalances, or making sure the underdog gets a voice.

Getting ‘kicked in the socks’, and ‘thinking with one’s socks’ has definitely taken on whole new volumes of meaning for this reader. “Monstrous Regiment” is definitely a great read from the pen of the brilliant Mr Pratchett. He hasn’t managed to disappoint this reader yet, over the many years of encounters with his undeniable savvy social commentary and facetious humor. “He’s a ‘wag’ is our Mister Pratchett…”

Very well done…

Marianne Plumridge


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review, M! This is one of my favorite Pratchetts, (so far, I've got a lot yet to read!) Reading it made me realize that he's not just a great satirist, but has become a great novelist by any literary standard.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Karen!

Yep, I love Pratchett's work! Too many that I haven't caught up on. :-D Given any excuse, though...

'Going Postal' is the current favourite.

And yes, Terry is a brilliant satirist, with a hefty dose of psychology thrown in.


5:30 PM  
Blogger rohit said...

Must be an enjoyable read Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Thanks, Rohit! It is a great read and a thought provoking one at the same time. ;-D

9:06 AM  

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