CILIP Carnegie 2017 – 2/9
When I was smaller, I asked my grandfather how Wolf Hollow got its name.
‘They used to dig deep pits there, for catching wolves,’ he said.
He was one of eight of us who lived together in the farmhouse that had been in our family for a hundred years, three generations tucked together under one roof after the Depression had tightened the whole country’s belt and made out farm the best of all places to live. Now, with a second world war raging, lots of people grew victory gardens to help feed themselves, but our whole farm was a giant victory garden that my grandfather had spent his whole life tending.
He was a serious man who always told me the truth, which I didn’t want but sometimes asked for anyway. When I asked him how Wolf Hollow got its name, for instance, he told me, even though I was only eight at the time.
Wolf Hollow – named for the pit where wolves were trapped and shot for fear they would pick off the chickens. The place where Annabelle’s family farm the land, where Toby has roamed the hills since the last war. Toby, who carries three guns on his back but only shoots with his camera.
In the autumn of 1943, Betty Glengarry arrives and Annabelle learns how to lie. Betty is a bully, and Annabelle does not know who to tell. What she does know is Toby is watching the situation from the hills.
Then something serious happens, and fingers point at Toby. Like Scout Finch before her, Annabelle is determined to see justice …
I read this over 24 hours, cover to cover. The character, pace and descriptive writing kept me hooked. In terms of plot, it is like To Kill a Mockingbird, but the metaphor of the wolf pit brings the main character to a different conclusion.
Annabelle is a captivating character. Perceptive about the effect her actions might have on other people, there are also times when she fails to understand why somebody might be different from herself. The novel is narrated by a much older Annabelle. I like how this enables her to reflect on her younger self. She realises, for example, that as a child she did not have a word to describe the difference between her young self and Betty Glengarry. I would like to see a bit more to Betty – I don’t believe all characters need to be ‘rounded’, but we only saw young Annabelle’s perception of Betty as a bully, with some brief discussion of how her Grandparents have blinkers about their grandchild. I would love young Annabelle to learn *something* which makes her think about Betty from a different angle.
The judgement of Betty Glengarry as something dangerous – something which belongs in the wolf pit – seems at odds with the overriding message against prejudice, when we know so little about her background. This may be part of the book’s complexity. Annabelle is faced with contradictory revelations about life: for example, she learns to tell the truth, but finds that lies are sometimes necessary.
Annabelle’s extended family have different views on the situation, which allows her to see the problem from different perspectives. Aunt Lilly also becomes a figurehead for the prejudice exhibited by a large number of characters. This works nicely – it allows us to see how somebody’s view might be formed, what might influence it, and the ways it might change.
The writing is beautiful. Five very shiny stars for pace and suspense – the sentences flow into each other, with regular snippets of information to grab your attention and keep your mind firmly on the story. The descriptive writing is both beautiful and telling – from the girl who is not as beautiful as her name sounds, to the snake which retains the tread of the person who squashed it. Read the description carefully – it tells you where the story is heading.
Corgi (Penguin Random House)
Page Count: 291
Nb. My proof copy came to me second-hand. Many thanks to the person who put it into my hands.