Friday 12 October 2007

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny

This was the October selection for my book group. I missed last month and despite having an invite from the Year 2 Mum's Group from school for a mum's night out I decided I wanted to spend it with my book group. Besides they went in the diary first!

This book is a murder mystery in the most simplistic terms. But there are some complex story lines which add some depth and interest to the story. Set in the Canadian wilderness in 1967, a man is found brutally scalped (is there any other kind of scalping?) and a woman's son has gone missing.

The book is full of vivid descriptions of the white blindness surrounding much of the northern Canadian landscape. And the characters are likable, despicable, loving, vile in turn. It is a captivating story rich with deep and thoroughly human characters. There is no superficial treatment of any of the plot lines.

Which is part of my only problem with the novel. There is a lot going on and the author uses pronouns liberally, particularly at the beginning of chapters so you are never entirely sure of whose perspective you are reading. She also alternates between the use of the character's last name and first name. it took me a while to figure out who everyone is and to future readers of the novel, I recommend you keep a little crib sheet with you as a book mark which is what I did when I read East of Eden, another novel loaded with characters.

This book was a bit of a surprise. It is the debut novel from Stef Penney. She is a Scottish agoraphobic who has never travelled to Canada and in fact finds it incredibly stressful just to leave her home. I'm not sure how authors do that. I've always thought you write about what you know. In fact, once when I was musing about the great novel inside my head, a friend of mine said to me "But you don't know anything about that." I'm sure she meant well and I thought ok, maybe I need another idea. But now I realise I don't. But you do need extraordinary talent and lots of hard work to be able to produce a novel as robust as The Tenderness of Wolves.

Highly Recommended!

Book Group Review: Only a few of us finished the novel. Those that did loved it. Those that didn't were inspired to hurry it up! Only BE felt that the editing wasn't as tidy as it could of been. KH, HA, and I agreed that we liked the loose ends. Life doesn't get all tidied up. There are always loose ends. The resident Canadian, HA, couldn't believe how accurate the detailing of the landscape was. She was amazed when she discovered that the author had never actually visited Canada.

Next Month's Selection: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.

1 comment:

Janell said...

Sounds interesting. I wonder how an agoraphopic finds the guts to submit writing to a publisher?