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The tenderness of wolves by Stef Penney
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The tenderness of wolves (original 2006; edition 2008)

by Stef Penney

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2,1661243,001 (3.76)400
Member:richardderus
Title:The tenderness of wolves
Authors:Stef Penney
Info:New York : Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2008.
Collections:Your library
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The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (2006)

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The tenderness of wolves

I love curling up with a good book, whatever the season.

You might find me on a sun lounger in summer or on a park bench in Autumn, but you'll never find me without a book in my hand and another in my bag. (You never know when you'll get Bonus Reading Time.)

In Winter I particularly enjoy snuggling up with books which have a properly cold setting. Recently this has included fantastic stories set in the Arctic Circle ('The One Memory of Flora Banks'), Antartica ('Devour'), Communist East Germany ('Stasi Child' - this cold may be more metaphorical!) and Canada - 'The Tenderness of Wolves'.

What's it about?

When a man is found brutally murdered and a seventeen year old boy goes missing, the boy's mother decides to find him in order to clear his name.

Their life in a frontiership town has always been tough, but the forest is a foreign and frightening place, and winter is closing in... Can Mrs Ross find her son before the Company hunters can? What exactly was his connection to the dead trapper? And can investigating this new mystery help resolve a decades old one?

Favourite quotes:

'She considers herself a well-traveled woman, and from each place she has been to, she has brought away a prejudice as a souvenir.'

'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.'

What's it like?

Slow paced. Lovely to read (the writing is beautiful). Deliciously evocative of life in the Canadian wilderness.

There's a panoramic quality to the writing which meant I wasn't surprised to learn that debut novelist Steph Penney had written and directed two films prior to writing this novel.

This is a mixture of genres - a dose of romance, a tale of life in the wilderness, a dash of mystery and more than a hint of Canadian Western. The resulting story does feel a little lacking in focus at times: a key plot device is finally reduced to little more than a macguffin, and whole characters have fully fleshed out storylines that are ultimately almost irrelevant to the main narrative thread (yes I mean you, Line, and you, entire population of Himmelvanger).

One of the many strengths of Penney's book is her evocation of place. The setting - especially the increasing coldness - is firmly felt throughout:

"The cold is like a hand that is laid with gentle but implacable force on the snow, telling it to stay."

Final thoughts

Ultimately, Penney captures the daily rigour of life on the seventeenth century Canadadian frontier by following the threads of disparate lives - where they've been, where they wanted to go, where they may yet go.

There's a certain sadness to all the endings which is wonderfully realistic without being too brutal. Not all the loose ends are tied up, but the central mystery is resolved. I found the conclusion of Mrs Ross' story particularly moving.

This book was such a resounding success with my entire book group - a rarity! - that no-one even noticed the occasionally rather modern dialogue.

("Geez. Keep a girl waiting, why don't you."
"Sorry. Um... it's just that, I'll have to speak to my Dad, to see if he wants me to work....first. Thanks though. It sounds nice."
To be fair to Penney, only the younger characters speak this way, so in that sense the dialogue is perfectly appropriate, which may be why such anachronisms passed by seasoned readers without comment.)

In fact my best efforts to stir up debate and dissension resulted in increasingly positive commentary from the entire group. And I was only drawing their attention to possible flaws in an effort to widen the scope of the discussion: I'd thoroughly enjoyed reading 'The Tenderness of Wolves' too.

(Note to self: seek out a batch of Steph Penney's second novel, 'The Invisible Ones', to see if it is possible to repeat this possibly unprecedented success.)

A gentle, delightful tale of harsh lives and harsher weather, wolves, furs, taboos, and the madness that is born of loneliness.

Recommended. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Feb 23, 2017 |
I was completely blown away by this book. It took me three tries to get into it, but once I did....Wow! I enjoyed all the different story lines, but truly loved that of Parker and Mrs. Ross. Mrs. Ross was unbelievable. So complex on so many levels. I am still in awe of the ending. How everything intertwined was magnificent. Bravo. Can't wait to read more from this author. ( )
  annabw | Feb 21, 2017 |
I liked this but not as much as The Invisibles Ones which I thought was better plotted. But this had many good elements - 19th Canada, Indians, a shout-out to captivity narratives, and lots of snow. It ended with a bit of a whimper though. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
"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 more cheaply than this. I can remind myself of that, if I have to.)"

As 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 writing:

"Sometimes, you find yourself looking at the forest in a different way. Sometimes it’s no more 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 of?"

So 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: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/1002481/the-tenderness-of-wolves
( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
Quite an epic read. A really good murder mystery with adventure, a great sense of place, suspense, romance and a bit of humor thrown into the mix. I thought the character development was fantastic and I loved the cold, winter, wilderness setting. The only fault I found which is why I gave it only three stars is that it is a bit long and drawn out. The stories taking place along with the main one are great stories, but I felt it went on a bit long and I found myself wishing for the end. I was captivated with the story but not the length of the story. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Aug 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
I read The Tenderness of Wolves and fell into the story right away; the characters were well drawn and Penney is able to lead the reader from one page to the next.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Times, Alyson Rudd (Jun 23, 2007)
 
There are few things like an endless vista to make a novel seem really gratifyingly contained. The novel itself comes to seem like a fragile bubble of consciousness beyond whose limits is a threatening void. (And that's what novels, in one essential manner, are.) And living in the rudimentary civilisation of mid 19th-century Canada must have been like living in a novel: there is nothing to concentrate on except the flawed characters of your fellow human beings, and the spoor left by their movements. And that, in a way, is all The Tenderness of Wolves is about.
 
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For my parents
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The last time I saw Laurent Jammet, he was in Scott's store with a dead wolf over his shoulder.
Laurenta Jammeta sem nazadnje videla v Scottovi trgovini z mrtvim volkom čez ramo.
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Book description
1867, Canada

As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a woman steels herself for the journey of a lifetime. A man has been brutally murdered and her seventeen-year-old son has disappeared. The violence has re-opened old wounds and inflamed deep-running tensions in the frontier township - some want to solve the crime; others seek only to exploit it.

To clear her son's name, she has no choice but to follow the tracks leaving the dead man's cabin and head north into the forest and the desolate landscape that lies beyond it....
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1867. Winter has just tightened its grip on Dove River, an isolated settlement in Canada's Northern Territory, when a man is brutally murdered. A local woman, Mrs. Ross, stumbles upon the crime scene and sees tracks leading from the dead man's cabin north toward the forest and the tundra beyond. But soon she makes another discovery: her son has disappeared and is now considered a prime suspect. A variety of outsiders are drawn to the crime and to the township--but do they want to solve the crime or exploit it? One by one, searchers set out to follow the tracks across a desolate landscape, 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.--From publisher description.… (more)

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