Snow lay thick, too, upon the roof of Willoughby Chase, the great house that stood on an open eminence in the heart of the wold. But for all that, the Chase looked an inviting home – a warm and welcoming stronghold. Its rosy, herring-bone brick was bright and well-cared-for, its numerous, turrets and battlements stood up sharp against the sky, and the crenellated balconies, corniced with snow, each held a golden square of window. The house was all alight within, and the joyous hubbub of activity contrasted with the sombre sighting of the wind and the hideous howling of the wolves without.How’s that for atmosphere? I’m going to do something different today: I waited a little too long between finishing this book and writing about it, and so I found myself stuck. To make things easier, I decided to use Dewey’s review questionnaire, which Kailana has also been using in her posts:
Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? Children’s fiction; alternative history with a Gothic atmosphere. The book is set in an alternative 1832: the difference between the world of the The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and ours is that King James II was never deposed, and James III is in the throne. Also, after a series of severe winters, wolves migrated through the Channel Tunnel from mainland Europe to Britain, where they are widespread at the time of the story.
What led you to pick up this book? I was reading through an encyclopaedia of children’s literature, and it mentioned that this was a classic that shouldn’t be missed (it was first published in 1963). It sounded good, so I took note of the author and title and ordered it a few weeks later.
Summarize the plot, but don’t give away the ending! So, as I said, the book is set in 19th century Britain. Bonnie and her parents live at Willoughby Chase, but because Bonnie’s mother has been unwell, her parents are to leave her with a governess and travel to Southern Europe for six months. They ask Bonnie’s orphaned cousin, Sylvia, to come stay with her, and hire a distant relation, Miss Slighcarp, as the girls’ governess. But Miss Slighcarp is not what she appears, and the day Bonnie’s parents leave, the girls realize they’re in trouble.
What did you like most about the book? First of all, I liked the atmosphere. A manor house! With secret passages! And wolves howling outside! And villainous villains within! Secondly, I liked that it was just such fun to read. It reminded me a little of Lemony Snicket, only not so over the top (and yes, I realize the point of Lemony Snicket is being over the top). I liked that it questioned gender and class assumptions. And I loved Bonnie and Sylvia. But I see a question about the main characters, so I’ll save it for that one.
What did you like least? I guess most of what happens in the story is easy to see coming, but this bothers me less if the book is an older one, as in this case. I always think the plot was probably fresher back then. Also, although Bonnie and Sylvia are well-rounded characters, the villains are a bit one-dimensional. And finally, the historical setting isn’t always believable – for example, Bonnie and Sylvia have a lot more freedom than young girls of their social class would have back then. But honestly, I was having too much fun to really care.
Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books? I haven’t yet, but I plan to. This book is actually part of a series, but while they all share the same alternative history setting, they can be read independently.
What did you think of the main character? I loved them! Both Bonnie and Sylvia are smart heroines who know how to look after themselves. Bonnie is quick-tempered, while Sylvia is more sensible, but they were both equally likeable in their own way.
What about the ending? I was satisfied with the ending. It really isn’t a spoiler to say everything turns out okay, because this is a book where you can tell it will from the very start.
They Read it too:
A Chair, a Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
(Did I miss yours?)