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The Tenderness of Wolves
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The Tenderness of Wolves

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  6,986 ratings  ·  1,172 reviews
A brilliant and breathtaking debut that captivated readers and garnered critical acclaim in the United Kingdom, The Tenderness of Wolves was long-listed for the Orange Prize in fiction and won the Costa Award (formerly the Whitbread) Book of the Year. The year is 1867. Winter has just tightened its grip on Dove River, a tiny isolated settlement in the Northern Territory, w ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 689 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Thorndike Press (first published 2006)
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Sometimes insightful remarks are made which are so reductive they have the power to diminish life even as they explain it. In 1939 Alfred Hitchcock explained in a lecture at Columbia University: "We have a name in the studio, and we call it the 'MacGuffin.' It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." Wikipedia elaborates:

A MacGuffin is a plot device that motivates the characte
For what it's worth, this is the first book I've read since I joined Goodreads to which I've given five stars. So, at the risk of gushing, I'm telling you to run, don't walk, to reserve this at your local library or buy it.

The setting is the 1860s in Canada, where the small community of Caulfield and cabins strung along the Dove River sit at the edge of the great North Woods. The book opens with the murder of French-Canadian trapper, and that event unlocks several intertwined subplots among the
Jeremy Baker
This book is directed at readers rather than thinkers. I can understand why people like it because there are plenty of wonderfully crafted moments, but the novel lacks focus and depth. I've read a few reviews that ooh and aah over the fact that it's a murder mystery wrapped in a love story hog-tied to a western deep fried in good ol fashioned wilderness tale, but I've always felt that genre divisions are a crutch for people who need the books they read to conform to a series of prearranged attri ...more
Set in the small village of Caulfield in Ontario during the winter of 1867, The Tenderness of Wolves tells the story of a woman's journey into the Canadian wilderness to find her missing seventeen year old son Francis, who has disappeared after a man, who was a friend of her son's, was found brutally murdered.

First off, I don't know why the author gave the novel this title as wolves do not figure in the plot much at all. They are mentioned once or twice but that's about it!

The plot was engagin
This is a frustrating novel on so many levels. It's one of those books you read where it could and should be brilliant, but suffers from an excess of trying to be too clever, hip and cutting edge in character development and writing technique.

The POV changes constantly from first person to third person in a sometimes confusing, backtrack-several-paragraphs-to-figure-out-who-is-talking kind of way. There are far, far too many characters and storylines happening as well. This would be ok if each s
"And so while my husband sleeps upstairs we pack–and I prepare to go into the wilderness with a suspected killer. What’s worse, a man I haven’t been properly introduced to. I am too shocked to feel fear, too excited to care about the impropriety of it. I suppose if you have already lost what matters most, then little things like reputation and honour lose their lustre. (Besides, if the worst comes to the worst, I can remind myself that I have sold my honour far more cheaply than this. I can remi ...more
A historical mystery set in Canada, and featuring what are essentially the precursors to Mounties and gay characters. I really thought I was going to like this book. Instead, I struggled to keep up with its meandering pace and mostly unsympathetic characters, only to be confronted by a conclusion that just cuts out like the end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” I know that sort of thing is supposed to be arty and true-to-life, but is a little bit of closure so much to ask? Several plot threads a ...more
Moray Barclay
The hero of this novel is only ever referred to by two names: Mrs Ross, and Mama. In their brief moments together at the beginning of the novel, Angus Ross never speaks to his wife, and she does not have a single good friend who knows her well enough to address her by her first name. She is reserved, polite and, as a married woman in these stifled Scottish, Presbyterian, conclaves in 19th Century Canada, almost invisible: when a self-important local figure demands, ‘Is you husband in?’, she note ...more
This book received the Costa (Whitbred)Award which I find totally surprising. Certainly the book has all the makings of a great novel. But it is not.

A host of interesting characters, a dramatic environment, a historical setting, even a murder mystery. Lots of interesting characters and criss-crossing paths. Yet it feels more like a soap opera at times than anything else.

I think the choice of the author to give a first person voice to one character and then use third person all the rest of the w
Well it's 1:20 AM and I just finished this well written page turner. Would probably give it 4 1/2 for capturing my interest. When my book club chose this I didn't think I would like it because I usually don't read murder mysteries. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the weaving storylines and plots and the way the characters were connected in what I was imagining to be a vast wintery wilderness. I also enjoyed the contrast of the first and third person narratives. I'm not sure I get th ...more
Jacket blurb: "Stef Penney is from Edinburgh and claims never to have visited Canada - IMPRESSIVE, then, that the land of her imagination convinces."

I wish I had never read that. During the entire reading of this book that revelation rattled around in my head. Why didn't she visit the place where her story was set? In all fairness, Penney's portrayal was believable. But in my mind there is a lack of integrity to a book (fiction or otherwise) when the author doesn't experience what they are writ
La historia que nos narra la escritora escocesa Stef Penney en ‘La ternura de los lobos’, nos traslada al año 1867, al nordeste de Canadá. Dove River es un poblado fundado por pioneros escoceses, en el que el trampero Laurent Jammet ha sido asesinado. Unido a este hecho, hay que añadir la desaparición de un adolescente, del que se cree autor del crimen. En los inhóspitos y nevados paisajes canadienses, transcurre esta novela coral. Quizás la protagonista principal sea la señora Ross, la madre de ...more
My interest in this novel was heighted by two outside pieces of information: that the author was a screenwriter and that she had never been to the area north of Georgian Bay where the novel is set (and had been criticized for it). The first interested me because the novel is “cinematic” and written in scenes—and moves forward at a compelling pace; the second, because I’ve been decrying the place that research has assumed in novel writing these days and completely accept the author’s counter that ...more
Tara Chevrestt
First of all, let me make it clear.. I read the whole thing and I am still scratching my head in confusion. What begins as a mystery in a trapper's cabin in 1867 ends with me wrinkling my nose in distaste in 2010.

Laurent Jammett is found dead in his cabin. His throat is slashed. A few things are missing. Whodunit and why? It takes 300 some pages and around 25 characters with their entire life stories, thoughts, and desires to answer that question. And the answer left me rather disappointed. I s
Ben Kane
It staggers me to see poor reviews of this novel. I suppose that it just shows the difference between people! I was given this book about three years ago, and such is my "To Be Read" pile that I've only got around it reading it now. Well, it was worth the wait. Although it took me some time to become absorbed by the story, I soon couldn't put it down. Penney's writing kept me interested. She can definitely weave words, and her recreation of 19th C. backwoods Canada has a really authentic feel to ...more
I picked this up at Penn Station one evening when I was unexpectedly stuck in NYC. I couldn't decide which book to buy, and my boyfriend made the decision for me. (I think he picked it because his last name means wolves.)

I started to read, and I was immediately struck by the interesting choice of having only one character in first person. The other chapters, though not in first person, are for the most part closely aligned with a single character. I could see why Penney chose Mrs. Ross for her f
This is easily one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a long time. The prose, particularly when used in the first person perspective of Mrs. Ross, really drew me in. This combined with the very human nature of both the story and characters made them human. Being from areas near and similar to the setting in the book I was surprised at the author’s ability to craft the feeling of the Northwood’s in winter, and particularly the feelings I had as a child during my first experience ...more
I LOVED this book, one of the best books I've read this year. If only more books were written like this!!! This was the best book to read while there is a heatwave outside, as this story tells the tale of an isolated settlement at Dove River during a snowy wasteland with wolves. This book was a thriller/mystery and historical romance set in a less populated backwood of Canada. Told from different points of view that kept me reading late into the night. Since there where a constant change of poin ...more
Liliana Pinto
Tenho de admitir que esta capa está lindíssima! É uma imagem tão vasta e que deixa tanto à imaginação...

Li este livro para o desafio opcional da maratona literária em que participei. Tenho a certeza que se não fosse esta razão ele iria ficar parado mais uns meses na estante. Fiquei um pouco desiludida comigo própria por ter esperado tanto tempo para o ler. Mas tinha aquela dúvida: será que vou gostar? Não sou grande fã de policiais, mas já começo a apreciar mais e mais este género literário.

A hi
My sister recommended this during a Sunday afternoon phone chat. My husband found it for me at Sequoya Library just before they closed for the day. Finished it Monday night. Impossible to go slow — esp. being sick and doing nothing but reading. Penney is a screenwriter and lives in Edinburgh, the locale where many of the people in this story lived before they went to Canada where the story is set.

Late in the 1860s in a small town in Canada, a semi-disabled trapper is murdered. A local woman find
I appreciated the imagination it took for a British writer to convey the hardscrabble existence of life in remote northern Ontario in the late 1860�s without ever having been there. The murder of a trapper and disappearance of Mrs. Ross� teenage son sets her, friends of the trapper, town officials, and representative of Hudson�s Bay Company on various paths to resolve the mystery, leading different parties to carry out dangerous treks to distant settlements in the middle of winter. We get a nice ...more
The cold snows of Canada seemed like a suitable place to be when the weather here is so wintry. Stef Penney's smoothly written debut novel is an engaging and pacy mystery set in mid nineteenth century Northern Territory. The solution to the crime is satisfying, but my main criticism is that the novel is over-loaded: there are too many minor characters, there's at least one sub-plot too many and there are motifs that Ms Penney seemed to get bored with: the tablet with the mysterious signs just go ...more
Marte Patel
Nov 18, 2009 Marte Patel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like good historial murder mysteries
My first review got entirely lost into the web ether so I'll just summarise this one:

* a lengthy book but quite quick to read
* enjoyable!
* good background research (I did spot a few mistakes, but mainly in the Norwegian bits)
* Norwegians! (I didn't know in advance!)
* the plot draws you in and the nature descriptions are spot-on (amazing for an agoraphobic!)
* a good murder mystery

Warmly recommended!

18 November 2009
I just re-read this novel as I chose it for our book club for this month. Unfortuna
BEAU-ti-ful book! Highly recommended!
More to follow....
It was the setting that drew me to this novel, but no matter how beautiful Stef Penney's depiction of the frozen wilderness of 19th century Canada, it couldn't salvage the book.

From the beginning, this book read like the middling novelization of a possibly interesting movie. I found out later that the author is a scriptwriter so that might have something to do with it. The problem is basically indifferent writing and incomplete characters. The protagonist, Mrs. Ross could have been interesting b
Here is a rare 1-star review from me. We read this book last month for book club (sorry clubbers who liked it). I really tried to like it...but just couldn't. First of all, the book keeps changing first-person. I understand it is a literary technique and appreciate it, but the author could not make the "voices" distinct enough and it always took me several paragraphs to figure out who was talking. Second, there were definitely some "questionable" storylines which would offend some readers. Speak ...more
Wolves is another historical fiction account, taking place in the wilderness of unsettled Ontario, after the heyday of the Hudson Bay Company. This story has complex characters; the main narrative is in the first person, from a married woman who emigrated from Great Britain and settled with her husband, now with a teen son. She begins as a hard character but her softness is revealed throughout the novel and by the end, she is an extremely likable, and sympathetic, character. There are also chapt ...more
Ugh, I was so mad at this book. I loved the first 100 pages and couldn't wait to find out what happened. The second 100 pages as she kept piling on more storylines and more characters and more vague mysteries about the past, I began to doubt she could pull it all together. The tone and character consistency got muddled, too. The last half of the book I was hoping against hope that somehow it would come together in a satisfactory way, but it didn't (for me). Most of the storylines were left hangi ...more
Kerryn (RatherBeReading)
The setting of this book was great, the book was so vividly descriptive and the overall storyline was enjoyable. My main issue with this book was just that it was an extremely slow read, some parts of the book were a bit of a slog.

Another issue i had with this book was the multiple perspectives, i generally enjoy multiple perspectives and i did think it helped the storyline in this instance. However, it was confusing sometimes determining which character's perspective we were in at any given mom
Wu Ming
WM1: Per usare una frase a effetto si potrebbe dire che con il suo romanzo d'esordio La tenerezza dei lupi Stef Penney ha inventato un nuovo genere: il "Northern". Vale a dire la variante canadese del western, che sostituisce il deserto dell'Arizona con le distese nevose dell'Ontario.
Sponde settentrionali del Lago Huron, anno 1867. In un piccolo villaggio di coloni scozzesi si consuma un efferato omicidio. Nessun indizio, eccetto una scia di impronte sulla neve che si perde verso nord. Per ris
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Stef Penney grew up in the Scottish capital and turned to film-making after a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Bristol University. She made three short films before studying Film and TV at Bournemouth College of Art, and on graduation was selected for the Carlton Television New Writers Scheme. She has also written and directed two short films; a BBC 10 x 10 starring Anna Friel and a Film Cou ...more
More about Stef Penney...
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“Clearly the secret of a variation on the general principle of banging your head against a wall, and then stopping.” 36 likes
“ just goes to show you can't leave anything behind. You bring it all with you, whether you want to or not.” 17 likes
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