Blue, blue, my world is blue.
It drives me mad when I see its hue.
I’ll rip it, I’ll dent it.
Wear it. I’ll attack you too.
Oh holidaymakers, what a to do!
What am I?
You don’t want to meet this young “hormonally confused” peacock if you’re wearing blue, driving a blue car or even parking one on the grounds of Lord and Lady MacIntosh’s estate in the Scottish Highlands. It. Will. Attack. The fact that the MacIntoshes do not find themselves involved in almighty stooshies with their tourist guests and peacock-victims is that the latter are a) understanding (the Bakshis) or b) preoccupied with their team-building (the investment bankers).
When the peacock goes missing, the reader knows what has happened, though the characters are clueless. It’s surprising how many feel implicated in a crime and the scramble to assuage various guilts and to cover-up is very entertaining. There are so many masters of misdirection in this assemblage.
The Peacock, a runaway bestseller in Germany, is published today by V&Q Books, who can now consider their mission statement “We plan to bust plenty of myths, including the one about the Germans having no sense of humour” accomplished. LOL does not cover it. I was guffawing! (And thinking this needs to be turned into a play – it would rival Michael Frayn’s Noises Off.)
The breakdown of the investment bankers’ team-building exercise is so knowing. Never team-build with the boss. The boss is there, muttering that she’s not paying the team to fritter their time away havering amongst themselves. Never take your pampered team of city types to a old, cold, wifi-less, signal-less lodge in November (at least not without their oudiis). She does. Never let the facilitator be a rookie. She is. If ever there was a disaster waiting to happen, this is it. There’s more fun to be had spotting yourselves within the character types and seeing how you’d react in the circumstances. I was there, and my fictional alter-ego behaved very true to type.
But the best bit – it’s all so Scottish. You would never guess that you’re reading a German novel. It’s not just the Scottish dialect that translator Annie Rutherford has woven seamlessly into the text (not much, just enough), it’s the whole feel of a Highland estate that is in decline because the owners cannot afford the upkeep. And the birds, THE BIRDS! Actually just doing their own things, but causing undue anxiety and stress to a city slicker who is afraid of them and has erred in transporting herself and her team to an estate replete with avarian threat.
Mid-novel and I was thinking, this is delicious but, to be completely authentic, it needs one more thing: a dose of Scottish weather. A couple of pages later and Scotland had obliged with an untimely atmospheric intervention (as is its wont!).
The Peacock is witty, entertaining and pitch perfect from first sentence to last, with the comic timing of the final sentence particularly inspired. A week later, I’m still chuckling.
My first 5* read of 2021. So this is my message to the author, the translator and the publisher. Ladies, it’s time to shake your tail feathers. For today, you have many reasons to strut your stuff!
The Peacock is released today. Would you like to read it? V&Q Books have offered three books for giveaway. To enter, please submit a photo of a shiny blue thing worthy of peacock attack! You can enter by emailing me at email@example.com, or by posting the picture on either twitter or instagram using the hashtag #shinybluethings. On twitter I am @lizzysiddal, on instagram @siddallizzy. The publisher is @VQ_Books (twitter) and @VQBooks (instagram). I’ll choose my three favourites and announce the result on Monday 8th March 2021.