I thought I would handle my next two books together since I know that one of the authors has never visited
There was much to enjoy in The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, though I was conscious throughout of looking for inaccuracies. I suspect that much of the detail has come from those remarkable women, Catharine Parr Traill and Susannah Moodie, although since, disgracefully, I have read neither except in extract, I can’t be sure. The plot is roughly as follows: a man is murdered and, immediately afterwards, a young man goes missing. His mother, Mrs Ross, discovers the dead man and, after some delay while investigations get underway, sets out to look for her son. The investigators McKinley, the factor from Fort Edgar, his assistant Donald Moody, and the “half-breed”, Jacob, are men from the Hudson’s Bay Company (in this, I assume Penney is correct; there was no police force in Canada at the time and the HBC might reasonably be called in to investigate the death of a trapper, although the dead man, Laurent Jammet, is not one of their employees, but a free trapper.) As we learn about the dead man and his circumstances other characters begin to emerge: Mr Knox, the local magistrate, and his family who have already been visited by tragedy when, years earlier, his nieces set out for a walk and never return. Sturrock, a tracker employed to find the missing girls arrives in the village, looking for a bone artefact that had been in Jammet’s possession.
While I found the unfolding of two separate threads of romance between characters appealing and sympathetically written, I began to find a number of problems with the book. The first was the multiplicity of voices. While only one, Mrs Ross, speaks directly to us, we find suddenly find ourselves with privileged insight into the mind and thoughts of others. While I am happy with books from multiple viewpoints, I found it clumsy in this instance, perhaps even more so because the entire book is told in the narrative present. Why is Mrs Ross’s story told directly? We become aware that all of the characters seem to feel degrees of alienation, and perhaps in many instances this is what brought them to
The artefact which exercises Sturrock’s concern is a similar problem. A minor quibble is that we are told he took it to “museums in
As I said at the outset, I enjoyed the book, despite loose ends and inconsistencies. What I have realised, in the course of writing about it, is that I am unlikely to re-read it, or to recommend it wholeheartedly. I still think it entirely possible to base a book entirely on research in libraries, but you need to steep yourself in the subject over a long period to pull it off convincingly.
I can’t find much evidence that The Tenderness of Wolves is being read in