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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Aiken, Joan: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

  Amazon  

4 stars

The wolves haunting Willoughby Chase are both literal and figurative. The literal ones are preternaturally aggressive and make traveling outside after dark a potentially fatal exercise. They're also capable of surprisingly high levels of thinking: they understand that a train's slowing on its tracks means that potential victims will soon be alighting from its doors, and they'll move to intercept. Thus when Sylvia's train arrives at the station near Willoughby Chase, where she is to begin her new life, it lurches to a halt, and the exiting passengers have to flee before the descending pack. Sylvia is an orphan coming to live with her cousin Bonnie at the same time that Bonnie's parents are setting off on a year-long voyage in the hopes of improving her mother's health. Sir Willoughby and Lady Green are the finest of people, doting parents, kind employers, and thoughtful already for the welfare of their niece--though they are surprisingly unaware of the conditions in which she's been living up to this point. The governess who will be watching the girls while Bonnie's parents are away is a distant cousin, Miss Slighcarp, one of the figurative wolves that inhabit this book. She is quite the opposite of what Bonnie's parents had in mind, and things go downhill at Willoughby Chase from the moment she steps through its door. The girls, with the aid of a handful of friends, must persevere against cruelties that any villain--one thinks immediately of Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events--would be proud to take credit for.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is an award-winning classic, originally published in 1962. I was not familiar with until very recently. It is also the first in a series of twelve books, and it was made into a movie in 1989. The book is deservedly popular. It's a well-written story with plucky heroines in an appealingly unusual setting; the grim governess is delightfully grim; the good eggs are very good, the bad as rotten as they come. I'm left confused by the point of the literal wolves in the story. They are so prominent at the beginning of the book--and the fact that they don't behave quite as they should is immediately intriguing--that I thought they would be important also at the story's end. Indeed, I fully expected the story to be resolved by wolf--a lupus ex machina--the bad guys coming to a grisly end suited to their deeds. But no. Probably the wolves are important later in the series. But taken on its own, I'd argue that this book doesn't quite hang together because the animals all but disappear from the storyline. Still, it hardly matters. The wolves are an appealing element, even if they don't quite make sense. I wish I'd read this one back when I was still a member of its target audience.

Comments

1.

I've heard of this book too, and never read it. This review makes me want to take a look because it sounds hugely intriguing - especially the bit about the wolves. But then there is the TBR pile...so maybe later.

2.

The nice thing about reading books for this is age group is that they're usually short. I sometimes wish all books were!

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