- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: W&N (13 September 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1474602959
- ISBN-13: 978-1474602952
- Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.3 x 21.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
History of Wolves Paperback – 13 Sep 2017
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Compelling ... History of Wolves stands out.
think Winter's Bone with less crime and more lyricism.. Fridlund is a fine writer and her work is cut through with moments of sparse beauty.
one of the most intelligent and poetic novels of the year
Fridlund's writing is vivid: her natural descriptions elicit a superb sense of place
this is a top-notch thriller: suspicion drips like icicles in the thaw
Fridlund is a fine writer and her work is cut through with moments of sparse beauty.
Haunting and compelling
Reminds me of Curtis Sittenfeld...so original, a beautiful literary work" (Viv Groskop); "A writer with a great future ahead of her...her prose is exquisite" (Louise Doughty)
The chilling plot is only part of the mesmerising power of this assured and striking debut from this American novelist
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 MAN BOOKER PRIZE. Already being acclaimed as one of the most exciting new debuts of 2017, Emily Fridlund's HISTORY OF WOLVES is a brilliant coming-of-age novel that will appeal to fans of THE GIRLS and THE VIRGIN SUICIDESSee all Product description
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Madeline started life as a member of a commune founded by her parents and other like-minded individuals. Her best friend from that time is Tameka who shared a bunk with her since the children were all segregated from the adults in the belief that they must be brought up by the community and not just the two individuals who gave birth to them. When the commune breaks up, Linda is left alone with her parents on a remote stretch of land that is cut-off by the general population by forest and snow. Her parents are still following their instincts about letting children find their own way and let her roam around at will, with no curfews or restrictions except those imposed on her by the lack of money. She is not well-liked in school either and has no friends.
The picture painted is that of a lonely, independent child trying to find someone who she feels will understand her quirks and her moody silences. In pursuit of this goal she focuses on people who are in some way outcasts themselves but in a relatively less obvious way than her. Hence her interest in the newly arrived teacher, Mr Grierson, who is obviously smitten by the prettiest girl in class. Or Lily, the prettiest girl in class who is not very bright and subject to whispers and pointed fingers herself. She spins some elaborate fantasies about how she will approach them and then feels disappointed and disillusioned when they fail to react to her overtures in the way she expects them to.
Into this scenario move Patra and her son Paul, who become Madeline’s nearest neighbours in the cabin across the lake. As Madeline starts spending more and more time with them, she begins to imagine herself a part of their family. It is almost painful to watch how hard she tries to insinuate herself into the framework of that family unit and deny the presence of her own on the other side of the lake.
The narrative style that is the author adopts is one that moves back and forth in time. Unlike other times, when a similar technique has been used by others, the story does not flow as easily from one phase to another. It comes across as rambling thoughts thrown together as one would in a diary while reminiscing about old times. Also, the point that the author is trying to make is not very clear. While this novel is a testament to the selfishness and utter self-involvement of the teenage mind, there is a lack of depth and sentiment to the whole story. The one tragic incident in the story on which this whole book actually propels is almost lost between the extreme build up and the time-hopping interludes. The character build up is not very strong either. Since the book is from Madeline’s perspective, this lack of in-depth analysis of the other characters around her can also be deemed deliberate but it would have been interesting to know more about the people who flit through the pages alongside her. Her interest in the people whom she pursues, except for Patra and Paul, is never clearly explained. Why she took such an interest in them to begin with, why she tried to keep track of them for years after they had moved out of her life or even what she expected from them in return when they hardly registered her presence in their lives? Even her sexual preferences are not made clear and one is left wondering whether she actually had a sexual interest in an individual or a spiritual one.
At the end of the book, while one is pretty sure that Madeline is not a very likable character, it is unclear whether the author expected her audience to empathize with her or just listen to her story and move on or take up arms against certain religious practices. Or even whether the author is teaching us more compassion when she discusses the sad fate of a convicted child molester and has her main protagonist absolve him of a crime he did not commit. Is she in some way then asking her audience to look with a better understanding at Leo and Patra and their unfathomable beliefs? And perhaps at the childish folly of Madeline that had such disastrous results?
Having said that, the one point made by a fellow book club member about the book being about the disconnect between what an individual thinks and what he/she actually does struck me as being a fair one. Also, a lot of people felt sympathy for the lonely teenager in the story and felt that her description by the author was true to form.
This is a tragic story, made more so by the atmospheric and emotional isolation of the main protagonist and yet, it fails to invoke any great emotion in the reader. It is too long and too rambling to make it a comfortable or even a worthwhile read. When after reading a 500-page novel one is unable to arrive at the gist of the story then it is simply a lamentable waste of good reading time.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
"After another half hour, clouds hunkered down over the treetops, and a breeze nicked the lake's surface, giving it the look of old skin....I beached the canoe, and shunted it discreetly under a balsam fir. Then I set down the asphalt streets, which disintegrated into the front lawns of prefab houses. All of them, white, aluminum-sided. All of them: bookended, with porches and two-car garages, crowned with satellite dishes, fronted with pickup trucks...." "After dinner I sometimes took the canoe out and lingered after dark--especially on overcast nights, especially after nine, when twilight finally halved, and then halved again, sliding the sky through epochs of orange, then epochs of blue and purple."
Other reviewers have written that they are not sure what the novel is about. But what may appear muddled very appropriately reflects the musings of an adolescent trying to make sense of her world. A common theme runs through the seemingly disconnected subplots: what is more important, our internal "truths" or our external reality? And are the consequences of our actions judged by our assumptions or our intentions, or even by whether we are reactive, proactive, or passive? There is much to ponder here, both from the point of view of a teenage girl, and from her grown-up 37 year old self...and the two are not much different. One lingering question is, do we really mature with our passing years? Those who felt puzzled by the novel might benefit from a second read after knowing where the story ultimately goes. I, for one, am tempted...even though I rarely read anything twice. But this one was such a rich and engrossing read that I might just turn back again to page 1--if only to re-experience Ms. Fridlund's exquisite prose.
Madeline Furston is fascinated by the study of wolves and no wonder. At 14 years old, she is living in a failed commune with a father who is “kind to objects” and a mother who means well but hasn’t quite mastered her nurturing instincts. An outcast in her north Minnesota school with a keen sense of woodland survival instincts, she tries to make sense of the world – particularly a possible tryst between her history teacher and the class beauty, Lily.
When Patra – a 20-something-year-old mother – and her toddler son Paul move nearby, Madeline seizes the chance to become involved. She renames herself Linda and becomes an unofficial governess. But something is not quite right with the scenario. Little hints are dropped that could easily fly by (for instance, why is the 4-year-old still wearing a diaper?) but Linda does not have the social skills to decipher what is going on. And when Patra’s controlling and charismatic husband, Leo, arrives, tension really begins to build and yet it’s unclear as to why.
This debut book succeeds on so many levels. The questions at its core are: What’s the difference between what you want to believe and what you do? And what’s the difference between what you think and what you end up doing? At our hearts, are we all children? (Emily Fridlund writes, “By their nature, it seems to me, children were freaks. They believed impossible things to suit themselves, thought their fantasies were the center of the world. They were the best kinds of quacks, if that’s what you wanted – pretenders who didn’t know they were pretending at all.” What happens when our beliefs become so powerful that we become, without intention, freaks?
There are many ways that these themes circle and enfold upon each other and to get into that too deeply would be to create spoilers. I will say this: Emily Fridlund is a true master at ratcheting up tension, creating a compelling atmosphere, staying in control of her themes, and ultimately, unraveling what it means to be a misunderstood predator-of-sorts. The writing is downright gorgeous. This is the real deal. 5 strong stars.
Our protagonist leads us on a path, sometimes contently paddling over the lake waters, quietly trying to sleep as an outsider in her own home, in the high school bathroom stall listening to the familiar teasing of classmates, trying to wedge herself in to another family that from the outside looks ideal, or by a language only she knows through her dogs, which seem like the only true relationship that is both comforting and easy, but she really wants us to follow her train of thought, perhaps to help her find her way.
Yet, there are lessons learned out in the deep woods of Minnesota. Often you think that only these sort of lessons come from books or teachers, or wise people such as jaded folks who live in the city.
Following the fast pace of alert-in-her-own-way teen Madeline’s well-grounded footsteps, we see her world through the woods. She is a loner who wants to belong, desperately clinging to any branch that sways, hanging on to those that might seem to be a fit.
An eerily, quiet, and disturbing tale, that will leave you wondering.