books, fiction

Book Review: History of Wolves

History of Wolves
(Emily Fridlund, 2017, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Does anyone else feel the environment in which they read influences how they enjoy a book?

I read this book last winter, in my previous bedroom (we had a flat change-about over lockdown), and this is mostly how I remember reading and loving History of Wolves. The dull lamp on the other side of the bed; the book resting on my pillow as I pulled the duvet over my shoulders from behind. Weird.

History of Wolves is about a teenager called Linda who babysits for a pretty well-off couple who live in a lakeside house. Her own family home is also by the lake, but less fancy, and she sleeps in the loft. She finds high school a chore. There was a weird storyline about a potentially predatory teacher. She wrote an essay at school about the history of wolves where she tells us that there’s no such thing as a true alpha wolf (really interesting).

It was an engaging and odd book, and honestly I couldn’t stop reading it. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the story and the atmosphere in which I read it.

The Guardian gave it a less than glowing review:

There is only one mood: slow and sad. A good teenage novel needs some riot with its woe… For a novel that aspires to say something about power, History of Wolves is strikingly impotent.

Well, you know what? I like books that are ‘slow and sad’. I think most of what I read is slow and sad. And, also, I wasn’t riotous with my woe as a teenager so…

I don’t find it ‘impotent’ at all. My book group also enjoyed it, and the novel’s wintriness especially impacted on us all.

Sometimes it’s just not about the plot. It’s about atmosphere, and I find winter a good time to cover up in warmth and read something hard to define. It’s about writing that just pulls you in, slow and sad as it may be, because life is slow and sad at times. It’s about thinking about a title; how much you analyse it. It’s about little snippets you learn from a book.

It’s about reading in winter and being somewhere other than here.

Stay warm and cosy, book buddies.

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