Sunday, February 23, 2014

Classic Review: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase has had many covers since it was first published in 1962.

At first glance, this appears to be a book about wolves, but it is actually about several humans who turn out to be more dangerous than the wolves who hunt the forests at night.

Set in 18th century England, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase centers on 2 girls who are being cared for by a distant relative while their wealthy guardians are away on a sea voyage. Things get off to a bad start when the governess, Miss Slighcarp, locks one of the girls in a closet and sells off all the children's toys. Soon we realize that this woman means to do more than just harm the children, she's out to claim the entire estate.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was a dark story of intrigue and cruelty. The children must sneak around to discover the truth, and even mastermind an escape plan from a terrible orphanage. This story is almost too terrible to bear, and that is exactly why some children will love it. These characters are in danger all the time.

However, three important things hold the novel back.
* The plot takes a long time to get interesting. My copy was 149 pages long, and I was bored to tears for the first 50.
* The language was really challenging for me. The sentences were structured in unnatural ways, and there was an overwhelming plethora of uncommon words. This will make the book really challenging for it's intended modern audience.
* For a novel that stakes it's claim solidly in the Dark and Mysterious category, it has a strangely happy ending. "And They All Lived Happily Ever After" was out of character.

Overall, I recommend this book as a read aloud for children ages 7-10.

I read this book for the Classics Club's Spin #5. The Classics Club is an ongoing challenge to read 50 classics in 5 years or less. Check out my list of classic books to read.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading this when I was a kid. I think they made a film too. I don't remember it making much of an impact on me though. The book or the film.