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The wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
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The wolves of Willoughby Chase (original 1962; edition 1963)

by Joan Aiken

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2,491673,671 (4.09)249
Member:pflagg1991
Title:The wolves of Willoughby Chase
Authors:Joan Aiken
Info:New York, NY Bantam Doubleday, 1963.
Collections:Your library
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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1962)

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Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
I finally read this - or rather, listened to the audiobook, after years and years of having Aiken's work recommended to me by a friend. The reading by her daughter was exceptional. As far as the story went, though, I felt it paled in comparison, either to a book like Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess (which it is surely somewhat inspired by) or to Aiken's own, rather more free-form and whimsical short stories. It's very well-written, the setup is magnificent, and fans of this kind of story will likely enjoy it a great deal. For my part, however, I became a little tired of listening to the latest indignity Bonnie and Sylvia had to undergo, and I kept waiting for something a bit more fantastical to happen. ("The wolves are running," from another likely inspiration, kept crossing my mind - and making me wish for a little magic.) In the end, I liked the book, but my favorite parts were all in Aiken's flourishes, such as her predilection for wonderfully Dickensian names. ( )
  saroz | Nov 3, 2018 |
This is my second time reading it--my recollection of the first reading was that I liked it, but other than that there were wolves, I'd forgotten all the particulars (and the wolves came much, much earlier than in my remembrance).

It seems to me that this is likely a very influential tale that did all sorts of things probably quite early on that have become very common tropes since then. It's set in a Victorian Britain that's not-quite-right, and these alt-historical places are penny common now. It swings for the fences with its grand Gothic gestures--wintry landscapes, mad rushes along frozen rivers, evil governesses, hidden wills, cruel schoolteachers, orphans, geese carts, etc., at a time when (I imagine) this was out of fashion. And it works, exceedingly so.

There's even a couple of oddities that never quite get explained to my liking, and the eccentricity of them is charming. I stop shy of 5 stars because I wasn't moved, but I was deeply enjoying it otherwise.

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s).
( )
1 vote ashleytylerjohn | Sep 19, 2018 |
​When I was young, I had these amazing neighbours who I loved like my own grandparents. They had no children of their own, so they quite enjoyed having me over. They always gave me the best gifts, recognizing what my likes and dislikes were quite aptly. For one birthday, they gifted me two books that were part of this series. And let me just tell you, those books were amazing! I loved the stories - and I still love them! Only recently did I discover that this series even existed, so now I plan on reading all of the books in order!

Bonnie Willoughby is very excited for the arrival of her cousin Sylvia, and for her meeting with her new governess, Miss Slighcarp. While her parents prepare to leave for their sea voyage, Bonnie waits anxiously for the 2 people she hopes will keep her happy while her parents are away. While Sylvia turns out to be just as wonderful as Bonnie imagined, it soon becomes clear that Miss Slighcarp is not a kind governess. Left in her care, the girls are aghast by her cruelty. The servants are sent away, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are taken to a prison-like orphan school. Will the girls ever escape and be free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

Reading this book brought a smile to my face. Granted, it's a story for elementary school children, but the story is cute and the characters are spunky, and it's one of those stories where everything becomes right in the world. It may not explain everything in perfect detail but it keeps the reader entertained throughout. It brought back so many wonderful childhood memories for me, and even though I'm reading it as an adult, it still seemed like a fun read! If you want to revisit the kid in you, then this is the book to go for! ( )
1 vote veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
Set in Victorian times in England. The parents of Bonnie Willoughby have sent for her cousin to come stay with her while the parents go on a trip. Bonnie's mother, Lady Green, has been ill and it is recommended that a voyage will help her to get better. Sir Willoughby has a poor cousin, Bonnie's Aunt Jane, who has been raising her orphaned niece Sylvia. Sir Willoughby feels that Sylvia would be good company for Bonnie while he and Lady Green are gone.

The family lives in the country on a large estate. The story starts in winter with heavy snows and numbers of wolves that have come down from the north scavenging for food. It is a dark setting outside, but inside all is good with the full compliment of servants and the good life.

Things start to get dark when Miss Slighcarp shows up. She is Bonnie's fourth cousin once removed, and has arrived to be her governess while the parents are gone. She is tall, thin, wears glasses and of a strict and severe personality. I did not like her from the beginning and figured she would not be a good 'un. She expects to have her own maid and set of rooms and be treated as one of the titled and not as an employee.

On the way to Willoughby Chase, Sylvia meets a man on the train, Mr. Grimshaw, who tries to befriend her. Her Aunt Jane has taught her not to trust strangers, but when something serious happens she does let her guard down. When the train arrives at the station, it stops suddenly and Mr. Grimshaw's portmanteau falls from the overhead rack and knocks him out. Due to his injury and Sylvia's concern he is taken to Willoughby Chase to recuperate. He also proves to not be a good 'un.

Once the parents are gone, Miss Slighcarp takes over the estate. She fires all the loyal servants and keeps only the shady ones. She determines the girls have been spoiled rotten and need discipline to show that they are not so privileged. She also takes to wearing Lady Green's elegant wardrobe and proceeds to get rid of the girls' wardrobes, the house furniture and anything else she can. Bread, water and gruel are the diet for the girls while Miss Slighcarp dines on only the best.

James, a loyal servant, manages to keep his post while posing as they type of servant Miss Slighcarp wants. He figures he can keep an eye on the girls and be helpful in getting them food. But Slighcarp decides to ship the girls off to a girls' school that is actually a work house.

There are also illustrations by Pat Marriott that also add to the dark, Victorian style. The tale has lots of action and adventure. The girls turn out to learn to be resourceful in getting out of the situation they find themselves in. Much they learn while dealing with life in the workhouse and also from their friend Simon, a young boy who lives in a cave on the Willoughby Chase estate. He raises geese and is very self-sufficient.

Though listed as a children's book, adults can enjoy it too. The characters and situations along with the writing keep you interested.

I found that Joan Aiken has received various prestigious awards for her writing and has 100 or so books to her credit. Definitely will be keeping my eye out for more by her. ( )
2 vote ChazziFrazz | Sep 8, 2017 |
This is a solid little book in the category of situations when children's parents go away, leaving them in the care of someone who turns out to be evil. Cousins Bonnie and Sylvia support each other throughout their misadventures and help keep each other strong. It's a short book so there's not a lot of detail or character development but it was interesting to see how they pulled themselves out of each new scrape. ( )
  MillieHennessy | Apr 30, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aiken, Joanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aiken, LizzaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bragg, BillIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hess, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marriott, PatIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robertson, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie's parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.

With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

This new edition features an introduction by Aiken's daughter, Lizza, providing insight into the struggles Aiken--much like her heroines--had to endure before finally finishing this classic story a decade after she started writing it.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440496039, Paperback)

Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie's parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.

With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

This new edition features an introduction by Aiken's daughter, Lizza, providing insight into the struggles Aiken--much like her heroines--had to endure before finally finishing this classic story a decade after she started writing it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:08 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Surrounded by villains of the first order, brave Bonnie and gentle cousin Sylvia conquer all obstacles in this Victorian melodrama.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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