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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

(The Wolves Chronicles #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  20,276 ratings  ·  1,342 reviews
Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie's parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It see ...more
Hardcover, 181 pages
Published November 14th 2000 by Delacorte Press (first published August 6th 1962)
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Cassandra The other books kinda need to be read in order, but you can read Wolves apart from them. The link is that #2, Black Hearts in Battersea, centres aroun…moreThe other books kinda need to be read in order, but you can read Wolves apart from them. The link is that #2, Black Hearts in Battersea, centres around Simon (side character in Wolves). The rest of the books are about Dido Twite, a side character from Black Hearts... hope that makes sense?

The other books are good, but I didn't enjoy them as much because I really liked Bonnie and Sylvia and wanted to find out what happened to them.(less)

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Hannah Greendale
When Bonnie’s parents leave for a voyage across the sea, she’s left in the care of a strident governess: Miss Slighcarp. Soon joined by her cousin Sylvia, the girls suffer cruel treatment at the hands of their governess and watch as every joyful element of their lives is dismantled. Meanwhile, menacing wolves circle and a strange man joins in Miss Slighcarp’s machinations. If Bonnie & Sylvia are to be free and happy once more, they must turn to an odd boy and his flock of geese for help.

Aiken e
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children, 2017
Those of us who grew up with an affinity for Victorian books, it might have started here, in Joan Aiken's 1962 classic Gothic / Dickensian love note, with its pitch perfect wicked governesses and wretched orphanages and aptronyms and moors and girls who are described as "hoydens," and secret passages, and real dungeons, and all these wolves. When we hit our teens and started reading stuff like Dickens and Wuthering Heights, it felt familiar to us; we'd already been indoctrinated into the rules o ...more
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: angels with even filthier souls
Recommended to Mariel by: angels with filthy souls
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is best read when young, or by those with the ability to tap into their inner girl.

I enjoyed the evil impostors who gleefully inflict child abuse. 'Wolves' is best read by kids who love to feel a bit of self-pity and delicious horror.
Bonnie is a bit of a simpering thing and there are lots of mentions of dresses and lace. I didn't care about that. My eyes tend to glaze over fripperies in real life too. (It feels like I'm the only person alive who doesn't notice if s
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who love orphan stories, hard times, friendship and poetic language.
Set in 1832, in an imaginary period of history, where wolves roamed during the snow covered days of winter, Sir Willoughby is preparing to take his wife on a cruise as she is delicate and in need of a rest (raise eyebrows) and their daughter Bonnie is awaiting the arrival of her cousin Sylvia who is to come and live with them. Bonnie's life couldn't be happier with rooms full of toys, a dolls house you can walk inside and devoted servants....until Miss Slighcarp arrives.

Miss Slighcarp is a real
“IT WAS DUSK – winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, grown savage and reckless from hunger.”

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was one of my favourite books as a child. We have a
Stacey (prettybooks)
This post is part of the 2015 Classics Challenge.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I actually don't think I had heard of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase until I discovered the Vintage Children's Classics, my favourite series of children's classics – I just love the design and the selection of well-known and lesser-known classics! I bought I Capture the Castle in 2012 followed by The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Dark is Rising, Fly Away Home and Charlotte Sometimes in 2013.

WHY I Chose to Read It
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"It was dusk -- winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, made savage and reckless from hunger..."
I dare you not to go on reading after that.
I read this book over and over as a
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a lovely little children’s book with secret passages, an evil governess and a goose boy. I definitely recommend it to little girls who have a mind for adventure. I myself had a little trouble at first getting into it, simply because I’m just not the audience for this. But eventually the adventure took over and I wanted to find out what happens.

There’s a weird wackiness in the beginning, which made me chuckle. Wolves jump up and attack the windows on a train. Bo
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is terrible but wonderful.

It's really a book that was published for young adults or kids, but published in 1962 so the idea of what constitutes entertaining literature for youngsters is really rather dated.

I think the author was more influenced by Edward Gorey and his odd, brilliant little books than she was by some of the other palpable influences, like Dickens and other masters of "waif literature."

It's the story of a rich little "waif" (so not a true waif, but she fits the archetypal mol
I'm still in two minds about this book. I enjoyed it very much, this was the first Aiken I have read and realise that I should have read far more since she's such an established and well-received children's author. The first half of the novel, set in Willoughby Hall is wonderful. The story is set in an alternate Victorian England. This is an England hoarded with wolves that have migrated through mainland Europe from Russia through a pre-Eurotunnel undersea excavation.
The story reads like a Dick
Sophie Crane
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-in-h-f
Great exciting adventure story, written in a quaint old-fashioned way, I reckon it'd suit ages 10+ due to locking naughty kids in dungeons/ parents going missing etc. Gripping and fun, no wonder it's a classic. ...more
Joan Aiken's Wolves Chronicles are wildly inventive fantasies, set in an alternate England where the Stuarts remained on the throne, making the Hanoverians the rebels and conspirators, and where wolves still roam even in London. There are eleven of them in all (and won't be any more, since Aiken sadly died in January 2004), and I think of them in sets of two or three.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea introduce many of the main characters in the series, chiefly Simon, a
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book thinking, "I wish this had been around when I was younger..." Well, this is a foolish thought because the books were around when I was a child, and have been around for awhile.
Any books for children that feature a mixture of Georgian/Victorian society, a dash of wolves, loads of adventure, and little girls learning to stand on their own two solid feet has my love. I love that Bonnie is not only a plucky young girl, but also handy with a rifle (good against wolves!).
This story
May 20, 2010 added it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
3.5 stars. The story takes place in a 1832 that didn’t exist, when a Channel Tunnel connecting Dover to Calais entices many wolves to move into Britain.
A poor, young girl, Sylvia, is brought to live with her rich relatives, and immediately things go wrong. The governess hired to teach Bonnie and Sylvia decides to take advantage of her employers’ absence, and takes over the place, sacks the servants and generally is a totally horrid woman. The story concerns how the girls manage to deal with the
First Second Books
This book has it all – kidnapping, secret passages, shipwrecks, orphans, violent death, fraud, a stolen inheritance, and best of all – wolves!
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
Thoroughly enjoyable read. The 'villainess' rates among the worst (or should that be one of the 'best'? Oh well, I meant the meanest) ones I've come across in children's literature. ...more
Aiken’s books were not part of my childhood, but I was vaguely aware of this first book in a long series, so when I spied the Vintage Classics paperback on a neighbor’s giveaway pile I rushed to read it. The snowy scene on the cover drew me in and the story, a Victorian-set fantasy with notes of Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre, soon did, too. In this alternative version of the 1830s, Britain already had an extensive railway network and wolves regularly used the Channel Tunnel (not actually opened unt ...more
Pam Baddeley
I approached this book with a little apprehension as I have had past experience of re-reading old childhood favourites and feeling letdown, but there was no problem with this novel, set in an alternative 1832 where the monarch is James III (implying that the House of Hanover never came to the throne) and wolves have entered England during a bad winter by crossing the Channel Tunnel (not opened in our reality until 1994).

Unlike the children's books of today - this was first published in the early
Ann-Marie "Cookie M."
One of my favorite books from the T.B. Scott Public library in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, when I was a wee young thing.
I found this copy at an antique store in Wisconsin Rapids this afternoon. I am visiting my mom.
It should ideally be read in a howling snowstorm.
I will settle for 88 degrees and sunny.

After a promising (but strangely familiar) start, this turned into a caricature, with over-the-top evil villains and a saccharine happy ending in which everything was tied up neatly in a bow.

I read in the "Backstory" that Aiken had originally written it as a one-off spoof of the Victorian gothic adventure stories she had read as a child. As far as I'm concerned, it didn't work. The parody will fly over children's heads and the story is way too simplistic and sugary sweet for adults.

In my opinion
Charles Dee Mitchell
Aug 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
I am not one to read juvenile novels and have never understood the current enthusiasm for them among adult readers. But I read a book of Aiken's short stories and was curious about this classic series.

Her writing is impeccable, but the strangeness of the opening section gives way to a story best enjoyed by ten-year-old girls.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Readers Who Enjoy Gothic Adventure Fiction
Cousins Bonnie and Sylvia Green find themselves in danger when Bonnie's parents must leave the country, entrusting the girls to the care of their wicked governess, Miss Slighcarp. But whether they are confronting the eponymous wolves of Willoughby Chase or enduring the drudgery of a charity school, our two young heroines never lose sight of their goal: to expose the machinations of their enemy, and regain their home...

The first in what is sometimes called the Wolves Chronicles, a loosely-connect
Susan in NC
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a grand adventure! I never read this as a kid, but it sounded fun, so I jumped at the chance to read it (and listen to the audiobook, beautifully narrated by the author’s daughter, Lizza Aiken) with the Retro Reads group.

A lovely, grand, old-fashioned adventure with brave and resilient orphans, evil governesses, a big country house with secret passages, wolves hunting through the snowy night - what fun! My son just graduated from college, but when he was young he read several Lemony Snicket
Diane Lynn
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Buddy read with Jeannette and Willow

Opening lines:

It was dusk-winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees.

I was hooked from the start. Two young girls go on quite an adventure when their situation goes from bad to worse. The girls are very resourceful and brave. They are helped by some very nice people, but then there are all those villains! Will the girls ever be able to escape the many wolves of Willoughby Chase?

I thought this was a ve
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I expected Julie of the Wolvesbut instead found a delightfully odd and, like a dear friend pointed out, difficult to pinpoint in time story of dreadful governesses, helpful goose boys, dastardly plans, and escape from being banished to the workhouse. All in all a good read. ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Children's fiction with a Victorian London setting. The story uses elements of classic Victorian fiction. The influence of Charles Dickens, Sheridan leFanu, Wilkie Collins, and the Sensation novelists of that time can be seen here. Lots of action and adventure, featuring two brave little girls who save the day. A fun read for all ages. ...more
This book is a gem. Two cousins home is taken over by a villainous governess. There is a young boy who helps rescue the girls when they are sent away to an orphanage. The author tells a story adding in the charm of the surroundings, love between the two girls and love and support from all who live at Willoughby Chase. This is a must-read for young readers.
Lady Shockley
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Reminiscent of The Secret Garden, though the dangers are a bit more menacing and the adventure is more wide- ranging. Well done!
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was a child I read this several times, but I haven't since. Naturally, I was concerned it wouldn't hold up. Well, it's Joan Aiken, so I shouldn't have worried... there's so much more here than I remembered. I mostly enjoyed it for the melodrama back then... I empathized so strongly with the children that I almost forgot how happy my real-life family was. Now I realize that it's more like a loving riff on Dickensian themes.

The edition I read from my local library now is original, and has i
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Joan Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and short stories.

She was born in Rye, East Sussex, into a family of writers, including her father, Conrad Aiken (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry), and her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge. She worked for the United Nations Information Offi

Other books in the series

The Wolves Chronicles (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2)
  • Nightbirds on Nantucket (The Wolves Chronicles, #3)
  • The Stolen Lake (The Wolves Chronicles, #4)
  • Dangerous Games (The Wolves Chronicles, #5)
  • The Cuckoo Tree (The Wolves Chronicles, #6)
  • Dido and Pa (The Wolves Chronicles, #7)
  • Is Underground (The Wolves Chronicles, #8)
  • Cold Shoulder Road (The Wolves Chronicles, #9)
  • Midwinter Nightingale (The Wolves Chronicles, #10)
  • The Witch of Clatteringshaws (The Wolves Chronicles, #11)

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Scary stories come to life when they’re read aloud! If you’re looking to get your young reader into the Halloween spirit by...
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“It was dusk - winter dusk. Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because of the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, grown savage and reckless from hunger.” 5 likes
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