Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
by Joan Aiken
Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, 1987.  168 pgs.  Fiction
-or- Book on CD  Listening Library, 2012.  4 discs

     Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken's classic tale of an alternative England where wolves are a constant wintertime threat.  Ms. Aiken's wolves likely refer not only to the animals which surround and sometimes invade Sir Willoughby Green's estate, but to the beastly humans who take over the care of his daughter and his property when he takes his wife to sea for her health's sake. The dreadful Miss Slighcarp--a very distant cousin--takes over while Sir Willoughby and his lady are gone, abuses and then dismisses the servants and sends the Green's daughter Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia to a school/orphanage that is no better than a workhouse. Though her parents' are thought to be lost at sea, Bonnie and Sylvia, with the help of Simon, a goose boy who lives on the estate, make their way to London to try to set things right. If you were to stack up this book against any number of well-received recent titles, they would all be found wanting. The language is not so rich as it once was, nor the storytelling as deft. If you have not read book for yourself, or with your children, now is a good time.  The 50th Anniversary issue of the book on CD, read by Ms Aiken's daughter Lizza, is splendid.


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