The Tenderness of Wolves – Stef Penney

Winner of the 2006 Costa First Novel Award, Stef Penney’s, The Tenderness of Wolves is a beautifully written debut novel about Canada, 1867.

Winter takes a grip on the Canadian, Hudson Bay Company settlement; Dove River.  A fur trapper is found murdered in his isolated hut by Mrs Ross, wife of a local farmer. Her seventeen year old moody, adopted son goes missing in the freezing wilderness. Suspects of the grisly murder are many and Dove River’s citizens want to catch the killer.  There are those who will go to any lengths to place the blame anywhere.  The Hudson Bay Company representatives are not too concerned with the law of justice but more what is in the enterprises best interest.  Mrs Ross (an agoraphobic) sets off with an Indian tracker (himself a suspect) desperate to find her son in the now freezing wilderness.

Penney has well researched the period and place for her novel.  The reader is transported to a frontier town of Canada surrounded by the raw beauty of the wilderness and the bitter cold of winter.  The personalities and foibles of the characters portrayed are in-depth and the reader identifies with each one.  The prose is easy to read, descriptive and at times poetic; the aurora shimmers in the north like a beautiful dream.

I enjoyed The Tenderness of Wolves and am looking forward to loosing myself in her 2012 novel, The Invisible Ones.