Because book group is tomorrow (at my house!), I stopped reading everything else and read this book instead, practically in one gulp:
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, 2006; from SPPL).
Such a tour de force; I am amazed that it took me four years from its American published date for me to find it. I faintly remember the reviews at the time, and possibly the subject matter put me off: bloody murder, half-breed Indians, mystical wild animals, the Canadian wilderness, eh?
(I once read somewhere that the certifiably most boring headline in the world is "Canadian bond issue funded" — but really, anything with "Canadian" in it will fit the bill. See? You're falling asleep already.)
So it was more out of duty to book group than eagerness that I opened the cover. But soon the voice of the main narrator, Mrs. Ross, captivated me. That, and the way Stef Penney skillfully brings in other voices in short bursts, quickly immerses you in the frozen north of an 1867 winter — a thoroughly unsentimental yet (true to the title) tender view. You think, That must have been the way it really happened! I have the dubious joy of knowing, better than most people, how fiendishly difficult it is to make a fictional 19th century real to a modern audience, yet Penney accomplishes the magic seemingly without effort. Wow.
Although on principal I love a book that creates more questions than it answers, after I got to the last page of this one I found I really needed to know Mrs. Ross's first name — a question posed just seven paragraphs from the end. Because I had waited so long to read it, Google easily yielded the answer, along with a nice blog-review of the book; you can see it here.
So sometimes it's good to come late to the table: more dessert.
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