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The Tenderness of Wolves

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  14,751 ratings  ·  1,663 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 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, when a
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  14,751 ratings  ·  1,663 reviews

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Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
What makes The Tenderness of Wolves a memorable story is the location, the desolate snow-covered wilds of Canada in the late 1860s. An unforgiving time when settlers and native Indians sought to live off the land and often suspicious of each other. The fur trappers and the Hudson Bay Company were at the heart of all trade and their power and influence were extensive and decisive.

When a trapper Laurent Jammet is murdered, Francis Ross disappears into the frozen wilderness and makes hi
Paul Bryant
Aug 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
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
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sep 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Whew! Is this book perfect? It does have flaws but minor. Yet it was hard to put down- blew the others I was reading at the start out of the water. And at points it reminded me of a John Wayne movie for the soap opera dilemma aspects of reoccurring crisis. Especially the movie "Stagecoach" when John Wayne becomes encumbered by a happenstance rescue of ladies and other dumb innocents within and from an unforgiving environment. So why the 5 stars?

The 5 stars are for complete and galloping entertai
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
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was really good. Set in a remote Canadian settlement in 1867, a man is brutally murdered! It’s dark and bleak and full of atmosphere. Just what I needed right now to be honest.
Connie G
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
In a small Canadian town by the Georgian Bay, Mrs Ross finds the body of her murdered neighbor, trapper and fur trader Laurent Jammet. Her adopted 17 year old son is also missing, and there are several sets of footprints heading north. The Hudson Bay Company sends their men to investigate several suspects. Mrs Ross sets off with a half-Indian guide, William Parker, to find her son.

The book is full of atmospheric details so the reader can feel for the 1867 immigrant and Indian characters as they
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Something about the title of the book had attracted my attention. We do not assign any qualities remotely resembling “tenderness” to wolves! The extract of the review from People on the cover page further piqued my curiosity. What was so special about the said review? I quote it verbatim for you, dear reader: “Think Cold Mountain – only colder....
Mystery, romance, and really
bad weather – just try putting this one down.”

Now, such a comparison with Cold Mountain which is a wonderful novel woul
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"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
Moray Barclay
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Ben Kane
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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 w
Joy D
In this historical fiction set in the Canadian wilderness in the mid-19th century, a French-Canadian trapper living near an isolated village is found murdered in his bed. Our protagonist, Mrs. Ross, discovers the body and alerts the authorities. Upon returning home she finds that her seventeen-year-old son, Francis, a friend of the murdered man, has disappeared. Suspicion falls upon her son and a mixed-race tracker. After her husband searches, but fails to find Francis, she and the tracker set o ...more
Apr 24, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
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
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
Julie Christine
Outstanding debut novel from this Scottish author. Penney captures the voices, terrain, and myriad of cultures of the remote and vast Hudson Bay territory. The bitter chill of winter 1867 matches the chill of murder and suspicion that invades a tiny town. An excellent read!
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
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 22, 2016 marked it as abandoned-or-try-again-later
I am putting this aside for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that I get no sense of place and time! This story takes place in the 1860s in the Northern Territory. That appeals to me. But numerous times I had to flip back to the beginning of the book to verify the time period and location. I did not get a feel for either! Also, I was not thrilled with the short chapters each told from a different viewpoint or with numerous different characters. Again, I had to keep flipping back to get som ...more
Stef Rozitis
This was a very interesting book, sensitively written and complex and managed to have elements of romance in it without putting me off too much (anyone who follows my reviews will be surprised by this). It's a tad on the bleak and tragic side, although at least it constantly humanises and rehumanises characters.

Two of my gripes were the overall negativity of it (everything has to be shit, fall apart, result in disconnection and loss. All desires must remain unfulfilled). I suppose in some ways t
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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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

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