Saturday, 31 March 2007

Stef Penney - The Tenderness of Wolves (Review)


The Tenderness of Wolves was the 2006 Costa Book of the Year, apparently a better book than William Boyd’s Restless. As I loved Restless I was really looking forward to reading this.

There’s a murder at the heart of the book and the plot revolves around the quest to find out who really killed the trapper Laurent Jammet. The story is told from the different points of view of most of the different principal characters (and there are quite a few) but the only first person narrative is that of Lucy Ross, the mother of the main suspect. Everyone in this book is a long way from home. Everyone is lost, often literally. Everyone is looking for something (and it’s often not what they think they are looking for). This is a story about love.

The Tenderness of Wolves is a tremendous first novel. The writing is assured, it’s a decent story well told, and the sense of place (which every reviewer has remarked upon) is breathtaking. The atmosphere of the isolated town of Caulfield, full of exiled Scots, is beautifully described. Although I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘gripping’ read, there’s an underlying sense of unease running throughout. Overall, given all the hype surrounding this book, I have to say I was a little disappointed. But I think that’s because my expectations were raised a little too high. This is a very good book.

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