I was hopeful, Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves starts with a quote from Angela Carter on wolves. It was not immediately downhill from there but there was a turning point that destroyed the book for me. I literally shouted at a character. At the author. I said no, don’t. Please no!
I have to say the name of our cunttail this month was inspired
“Bambi on the run!”
But, first the good bits.
Inti Flynn is in Scotland with her twin sister Aggie. Inti leads a team rewilding the Highlands through the reintroduction of wolves.
The wolves are the most interesting part of the book and there is much potential in the underlying exploration of humans as animals and predators and protectors. In what way are we like wolves and in what way are wolves like us?
When talking of her wolves, Inti says; “There is no love between six and nine yet…but they haven’t killed each other either.” Then she reflects, “Is that the way of all love, that it should carry the risk of death?”
You see, this book is also about domestic violence and the trauma of domestic violence, unfortunately, handled in such a way it felt preachy. As though the author had read a few websites and decided she understood domestic violence and its impacts. (Sorry I am meant to be writing about the good bits. I will try again.)
Addie and Inti’s parents live on different continents and when Aggie is expelled from school for breaking a boy’s nose while protecting Indi, their mother sends them to live with their naturalist father in Canada
It frightened her that I didn’t know how to protect myself. Because what kind of creature is born without this instinct?Charlotte McConaghy, Once There Were Wolves
The characters go to some lengths to protect each other and ultimately a wolf protects Inti – but it is the actions of the human characters that ring with unbelievability. There are just too many wild acts of violence.
At the heart of this novel is an ecological message (a preachy one, sorry). It seems when you have your characters’ info dump your message in dialogue you can’t escape ‘the message’ and better that your characters’ actions show me something, anything other than the message of the day. All the messages of the day were ticked off, climate change, domestic violence, PTSD, blah blah. There is one character quote I do like. In the knitting circle when the older woman says,
And when you open your heart to rewilding a landscape, the truth is, you’re opening your heart to rewilding yourself.Charlotte McConaghy, Once There Were Wolves
But, you have read this far to find out what had me screaming NO at this book. It is not a secret that there is a dead farmer in the plot. It is in the book’s blurb which also says this leads Inti to do something reckless. That thing. That thing she does is not reckless. It is ridiculous No one would do that thing.
Overall a ridiculous plot, a preachy message, and too much romance, twists and pregnancies that serve the plot and the message. Pocket bookclub agreed with me and scored this as the least liked book of our 2022 reads.
The Pocket Bookclub raged against a book of literary cocktails that only included quotes from men. We embarked on a cunttail project, inventing a cunttail for every book we read in 2022. We made a literary cunttail book!
Literary Cunttails 2022 is hand drawn by Miriama and includes every recipe. Get a free copy.