I think the choice of the author to give a first person voice to one character and then use third person all the rest of the way through the book is a major mistake in the discussion in the book she says Dickens did it in Bleak House so why can t I because he is a literary genius, that s why Although all of the characters are interesting, the author gives us insights into some than others The result is a feeling that this was designed to be a Dickensian book but the author just wasn t up to it I don t think you will feel that you wasted time reading this book and there are some wonderful passages about life in wintry Canada But I wouldn t put it at the top of my list.
This is a frustrating novel on so many levels It s one of those books you read where it could and should be brilliant, but suffers from an excess of trying to be too clever, hip and cutting edge in character development and writing technique.
The POV changes constantly from first person to third person in a sometimes confusing, backtrack several paragraphs to figure out who is talking kind of way There are far, far too many characters and storylines happening as well This would be ok if each storyline was distinct and wrapped up by the book s end Unfortunately, they aren t, and it left me with a big ole WTH happened to by the last page Lastly, this book tapped into one of my reader pet peeves assigning present day moires within a historical context I m sorry, but I have a really hard time shallowing a gay fur trapper in 1860 s Canada a regrettable choice of words on my part, I ll admit Then again, perhaps the only beaver he could access was the kind with silky fur and sharp front teeth, and he turned to men instead who knows Anyway, this book had potential, but it lost me in it s forced cleverness.
For what it s worth, this is the first book I ve read since I joined Goodreads to which I ve given five stars So, at the risk of gushing, I m telling you to run, don t walk, to reserve this at your local library or buy it.
The setting is the 1860s in Canada, where the small community of Caulfield and cabins strung along the Dove River sit at the edge of the great North Woods The book opens with the murder of French Canadian trapper, and that event unlocks several intertwined subplots among the people who live in this wintry landscape, dominated by the Hudson Bay Company.
The sharp description of the landscape and lives of European settlers and Indians alike is all the remarkable because Stef Penney was agoraphobic when she wrote this and was unable to visit the scene of her novel, instead doing all of her research from the safe womb of the British Library.
This is also much than a mystery, with finely drawn human portraits, stories of forbidden love and heartbreaking loss, all set in a time and place that is vividly evoked If it were possible, I d coin the term histery for this amalgam.
When the trapper is found dead in his cabin, a young man, Francis Ross, also disappears and is the first suspect His father hunts for him briefly, but after he returns home empty handed, Francis mother is determined to search for him herself, and to her own surprise, she ends up going off secretly with a man named William Parker who is half Indian and who has just escaped from official custody as a suspect in the murder.
The killing is the biggest sensation in the community since the disapperance several years earlier of two girls, who some feel died in the woods and were eaten by wolves, a story none of the experienced woodspeople believe, and a chapter of history that will make an eerie reappearance as the novel progresses.
Penney is a screenwriter by trade, and part of the sheer enjoyment of this book is the movie like pacing, with short chapters weaving expertly back and forth between three and four subplots I d be surprised if this isn t made into a movie at some point Mixed into this cast of characters is a venal and paranoid Hudson Bay official, a utopian settlement of Norwegian Christians deep in the woods, a charismatic but troubled Hudson Bay officer who lives deep in the forest, a new Company employee who is trying to prove himself and trying to decide which woman he loves, and the mysterious man that young Francis Ross saw and followed after the murder.
Penney s gift for language also elevates this above many a plot driven mystery At one point, she describes a narrow minded resident of the village this way She considers herself a well traveled woman, and from each place she has been to, she has brought away a prejudice as a souvenir Or this landscape description As suddenly as a smile, the sun causes beauty to break out on this sullen plain Beyond the pallisade lies a perfect landscape, like a sculpture carved in salt, crystalline and pure Meanwhile we trudge through roiled slush and dirt, trampled and stained with the effluent of dogs And near the end of the book, a description of the son s recuperation It has been weeks that he has lain up in the white room, his muscles softening and his skin growing pale like rhubarb under a pot A page turner with bonuses You can t ask for.
This book is directed at readers rather than thinkers I can understand why people like it because there are plenty of wonderfully crafted moments, but the novel lacks focus and depth I ve read a few reviews that ooh and aah over the fact that it s a murder mystery wrapped in a love story hog tied to a western deep fried in good ol fashioned wilderness tale, but I ve always felt that genre divisions are a crutch for people who need the books they read to conform to a series of prearranged attributes However, what people take away from a novel or any work of art , as well as the baggage they bring, isn t something the author can be held accountable for Though Stef Penney was obviously writing for a target audience based on her experience as a screenwriter I don t like it when I can see the machinery turning , nearly every other review I ve read drags in aspects of her personal life, giving them a disproportionate weight that colors one s appreciation of the narrative The kind of gossip useless to any serious literary discussion.
Aside from the pockets of wonderful writing scattered throughout, what I liked about this novel was the title Wolves generally rank above snakes but below mice on the Wheel of Tenderness, but I liked the attempt to turn our thinking around Those of you with access to the discovery channel know that wolves mate for life awww , but that their lives are determined mainly by a constant struggle for physical dominance within the pack Food is always scarce most packs can only support one litter of cubs and any youngsters that don t belong to the pair at the top are killed out of hand, and even for mature wolves their main predators remain other wolf packs If there is a tenderness of wolves it is characterized by a vicious, selective intensity focused ultimately on survival Draw whatever parallels you please between the previous statement and people you know and love, or substitute wilderness for wolves.
Where the novel runs aground is the arbitrarily neat division into four sections Not only do they break the flow of the story, they feel forced, as if Penney was already thinking about where to insert the commercial breaks At the beginning of Fields of Heaven Penney introduces a number of minor characters that, while well drawn, don t add anything to the novel, or contribute to it s resolution Everyone in Himmelvanger is background noise except for Line, who didn t serve any real purpose aside from informing Angus at the end about his wife and son simultaneously robbing the reader of a scene where Angus comes across his wife with Parker At the same time, all of the conflict built up in the first section between Knox, McKinley, and Sturrock is set aside and ultimately left unexplored like so many other plot threads Sturrock and Marie in particular get robbed in this book after building them up in the beginning, they spend the rest of the novel literally sitting around.
Overall this book confused me, and not in a tantalizing way I felt jerked around, as though Penney had started to say something, changed her mind, and then sprung mid sentence in a completely different direction.
In a small Canadian town by the Georgian Bay, Mrs Ross finds the body of her murdered neighbor, trapper and fur trader Laurent Jammet Her adopted 17 year old son is also missing, and there are several sets of footprints heading north The Hudson Bay Company sends their men to investigate several suspects Mrs Ross sets off with a half Indian guide, William Parker, to find her son.
The book is full of atmospheric details so the reader can feel for the 1867 immigrant and Indian characters as they deal with the cold, the exhausting travel by foot, and the fear of the howling wolves in the wilderness There are several other murder suspects, including a man who wants an Indian archeological find owned by Jammet In addition to being a historical mystery, the book is also about love in its many forms and a riveting adventure tale Author Stef Penney, a screenwriter, won the Costa Book Award in 2006.
Set in the small village of Caulfield in Ontario during the winter of 1867, The Tenderness of Wolves tells the story of a woman s journey into the Canadian wilderness to find her missing seventeen year old son Francis, who has disappeared after a man, who was a friend of her son s, was found brutally murdered First off, I don t know why the author gave the novel this title as wolves do not figure in the plot much at all They are mentioned once or twice but that s about it The plot was engaging and compelling at the beginning of the novel, but for about 100 pages or so in the middle it suddenly got very slow and boring, but it did pick up again in the last quarter of the novel I thought the location of the novel was interesting I loved the setting and the vivid descriptions of pioneer life in the Canadian wilderness in the mid nineteenth century At times, the novel got extremely confusing I loved most of Penney s characters but there was simply too many of them I found it hard to keep track of all of them I wished Penney had thinned these out as a lot of these extra characters weren t vital to the plot I don t know why she included so many of these characters She should have spent time developing the characters that were central to the plot Stef Penney wrote all of her characters in the first person so sometimes it wasn t clear which character was doing the talking Because of this I had to go back and re read multiple chapters to figure out what was happening in the story Very annoying The ending of the novel was very abrupt There were TOO MANY loose ends I desperately wanted some romance in this novel to balance the story out view spoiler I wanted Mrs Ross and William Parker to add on the romantic feelings they were developing for each other I wanted Mrs Ross to confront her husband over his affair and his treatment of their son and leave him I wanted to know about how Mrs Ross s relationship with her husband had fallen apart I wanted to know Maria and Jacob s reactions to Moody s death I wanted Elizabeth Bird to meet her aunt and her cousins I wanted a final scene where Francis and his mother were reunited I wanted to know what happened to Amy Seton I was convinced she was one of the setters in the Norwegian village I wanted to know how Mrs Ross had managed to leave the asylum in Scotland Did they let her go Had she escaped hide spoiler And so while my husband sleeps upstairs we pack and I prepare to go into the wilderness with a suspected killer What s worse, a man I haven t been properly introduced to I am too shocked to feel fear, too excited to care about the impropriety of it I suppose if you have already lost what matters most, then little things like reputation and honour lose their lustre Besides, if the worst comes to the worst, I can remind myself that I have sold my honour far cheaply than this I can remind myself of that, if I have toAs the nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping to the point that I needed to switch the heating on, this was the perfect book to get in the mood for the upcoming season There are a few things that I could criticize about this book like the holes in some of the sub plots, anachronisms, the use of 20th century expressions and attitudes that detract from the 1867 setting but all in all these are minor flaws I loved this book Not least for its writingSometimes, you find yourself looking at the forest in a different way Sometimes it s no than the trees that provide houses and warmth, and hide the earth s nakedness, and you re glad of it And then sometimes, like tonight, it is a vast dark presence that you can never see the end of it might, for all you know, have not just length and breadth to lose yourself in, but also an immeasurable depth, or something else altogether And sometimes, you find yourself looking at your husband and wondering is he the straightforward man you think you know provider, friend, teller of poor jokes that nonetheless make you smile or does he too have depths that you have never seen What might he not be capable ofSo what that the language doesn t fit into 1867 The same concept worked for Marty McFly Anyway, just to clarify, this book is not about time travel The Tenderness of Wolves is a mystery set in the wintry northeast of Canada between communities of immigrants and natives, where the murder of a local trapper and the disappearance of a local youth set in motion an unlikely turn of events.
But it is not just a murder mystery What I loved about the book is what some other reviewers found distracting that it a number of subplots.
There are stories of people looking for something they have lost, of people looking for their own way in life, of people trying to remember who they are, of people trying to make new starts Some fail, some succeed The subplots add a great deal of depth to the characters and bring to life how in a largely isolated small community nearly everything is connected Ironically, for a story set in the freezing north, there is a lot of warmth and for a story largely set in the wilderness, there is a lot of humanity, even though the stoicism portrayed by characters and the brutality of some of the events ensure that this is by no means a cozy read This review was first posted on BookLikes The hero of this novel is only ever referred to by two names Mrs Ross, and Mama In their brief moments together at the beginning of the novel, Angus Ross never speaks to his wife, and she does not have a single good friend who knows her well enough to address her by her first name She is reserved, polite and, as a married woman in these stifled Scottish, Presbyterian, conclaves in 19th Century Canada, almost invisible when a self important local figure demands, Is you husband in , she notes that As a woman I m obviously not supposed to know anything She appears to have little self esteem, admitting that in fact long ago gave up the notion that I have any remarkable qualities When her teenage son disappears in the aftermath of the murder of a local fur trader, Laurent Jammet, she is for a while paralysed by indecision.
Yet, from this unpromising start, she demonstrates that she is in fact quite remarkable she shows enormous physical strength to drag herself through the barren Canadian landscape, not once but three times greater mental strength to embark on the subsequent quests and to stand up to those trying to advise her against this And towards the end, as the Cat Mouse game to find Jammet s murderer reaches its conclusion, she puts her life at risk But most revealing of all, it turns out she is not shy, just quiet She does not lack self esteem, she is in fact very funny and self deprecating She may still appear to be almost invisible but she misses nothing, particularly in the hubris of the numerous self important men that she meets She is deeply passionate, stifled through her current circumstances Had she not been denied educational opportunity because she was subjected to a 19th Century version of sectioning , she would have certainly achieved in life and yet she does not dwell on this or feel any self pity Perhaps this is for the best beyond the end of the book, we know that she must go back to her husband, who will remain unaware that he is married to such a wonderful woman.
A trapper Laurent Jammet is murdered, and Francis Ross, a suspect, disappears into the frozen wilderness Francis mother convinced of his innocence sets off with William Parker, a half Indian tracker, to find her son and prove his innocence Tantalisingly Parker is also a suspect Essentially we have a whodunit and we are introduced to a number of characters that add the intrigue and suspense that you would want in a great mystery story.
The story has multiple threads weaved together in a captivating plot A plot which is developed with care and attention as we deal with a murderer on the loose, corruption, local politics, settlement issues, and the different guises of love interests and sexual desire This is a magical book and created beautiful vivid imagery of a harsh but an extremely beautiful place The cold and fragility of life got under my skin and I imagined how difficult settlers lives were What makes this remarkable is that Stef Penney achieved this without ever visiting Northern Canada and received criticism as a consequence Hmmm I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it I have to say I love the title.
A Brilliant And Breathtaking Debut That Captivated Readers And Garnered Critical Acclaim In The United Kingdom, The Tenderness of Wolves Was Long Listed For The Orange Prize In Fiction And Won The Costa Award Formerly Whitbread Book Of The YearThe Year Is Winter Has Just Tightened Its Grip On Dove River, A Tiny Isolated Settlement In The Northern Territory, When A Man Is Brutally Murdered Laurent Jammett Had Been A Voyageur For The Hudson Bay Company Before An Accident Lamed Him Four Years Earlier The Same Accident Afforded Him The Little Parcel Of Land In Dove River, Land That The Locals Called Unlucky Due To The Untimely Death Of The Previous Owner A Local Woman, Mrs Ross, Stumbles Upon The Crime Scene And Sees The Tracks Leading From The Dead Man S Cabin North Toward The Forest And The Tundra Beyond It Is Mrs Ross S Knock On The Door Of The Largest House In Caulfield That Launches The Investigation Within Hours She Will Regret That Knock With A Mother S Love For Soon She Makes Another Discovery Her Seventeen Year Old Son Francis Has Disappeared And Is Now Considered A Prime Suspect In The Wake Of Such Violence, People Are Drawn To The Crime And To The Township Andrew Knox, Dove River S Elder Statesman Thomas Sturrock, A Wily American Itinerant Trader Donald Moody, The Clumsy Young Company Representative William Parker, A Half Breed Native American And Trapper Who Was Briefly Detained For Jammett S Murder Before Becoming Mrs Ross S Guide But The Question Remains Do These Men Want To Solve The Crime Or Exploit It One By One, The Searchers Set Out From Dove River Following The Tracks Across A Desolate Landscape Home To Only Wild Animals, Madmen, And Fugitives Variously Seeking A Murderer, A Son, Two Sisters Missing For Seventeen Years, And A Forgotten Native American Culture Before The Snows Settle And Cover The Tracks Of The Past For Good In An Astonishingly Assured Debut, Stef Penney Deftly Weaves Adventure, Suspense, Revelation, And Humor Into An Exhilarating Thriller A Panoramic Historical Romance A Gripping Murder Mystery And, Ultimately, With The Sheer Scope And Quality Of Her Storytelling, An Epic For The Ages