Sometimes we read to improve ourselves. Sometimes, to learn from others’ mistakes. Maybe we read to pretend we’re smart and know things. And then sometimes, we read for the sole purpose of playing make-believe.
Wolves of Willoughby Chase is one of the latter. If you have ever wanted to be a rich 12-year-old girl wandering through secret passageways, wearing pelisses (whatever they are, it sounds like luxury), and going on adventures with the goose-boy—then this book is for you. For the rest of you, I deeply apologize. You may want to keep your smelling salts nearby in case you get queasy.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a fun book! Here’s the plot: Bonnie is the aforementioned girl with oodles of money and few cares in the world. Cousin Sylvia comes to live with Bonnie just as Bonnie’s parents are leaving on a long voyage. The cousins’ adventures begin, however, when an evil governess takesover the estate in absence of parents. The girls are sent to a boarding school in conditions worthy of a Dickens novel, and all is surely in despair—what will they do??
Seriously, I don’t want to ruin it for you. I liked the solution. (It involves Simon the goose-boy.)
Wolves of Willoughby Chase is part fairy-tale, part social novel, and a little scaryness thrown in. The wolves from the title would have frightened me badly as a kid (heck, we watched “Pinocchio” when I was three and I dreamed about giant man-eating whales for years—so maybe I’m a bad judge). For the overall feel, think Series of Unfortunate Events, minus the doom and despair. But that’d be a whole different book series, wouldn’t it?
Willoughby Chase‘s only major life lesson is that one should always check the evil governess’ references before leaving on vacation. But author Joan Aiken wrote about things she liked, which can be a good deal better than pleasing an audience. And in this case, she did both.
If you liked this book, you might also like:
other books by Joan Aiken
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
and, if you’re willing to wade through long sentences (which you obviously are if you read this blog…) any books by Charles Dickens
(Speaking of Charles Dickens, Oprah has recently discovered him. Good to know his existence has been validated.)
What do you guys think? Aiken’s plot seems rather unoriginal to me—but maybe that’s overrated. Do authors need to be original–or should they just write about whatever they like?
[click on photos for photo credits.]