Sunday, November 4, 2012

The wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

I saw this book at the airport and thought I know The wolves of Willoughby Chase is a classic and I have not read it and the new cover from the Random House Vintage Classics series caught my eye.

If you have read books like Emmy and the incredible Shrinking rat or The truth about Verity Sparks then I know for sure you will adore The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  Yes it was published in 1963 but this book is a classic that has certainly stood the test of time and as a bonus there are many more books in the series for you to enjoy.

In chapter one and chapter two we meet our two heroines Bonnie and Sylvia.  Bonnie lives at Willoughby Chase with her loving parents, attentive and caring servants and every good thing a little girl might need to for a happy life such as delicious food and a pony.  Sylvia is an orphan who lives in London with her aunt. Sylvia's life has been one of struggle and poverty.  Bonnie’s parents need to travel abroad because Lady Green, Bonnie’s mother needs a warmer climate to recover her delicate health.  Sir Willoughby has found a distant cousin to engage as a governess for the two girls. Are you already thinking she will be evil?  Of course she is – she has to be with a name like Miss Slighcarp.  “an immensely tall, thin lady, clad from neck to toe in a travelling dress of swathed grey twill, with a stiff collar, dark glasses and dull green buttoned boots.”  Later we discover she is also wearing a wig!

Sylvia also arrives at Willoughby Chase.  Sitting in her carriage is a strange, seemingly friendly man, but Sylvia has been warned to never talk to strangers. It is a long and tiring journey which ends in a terrifying confrontation with the wolves of the title.  This strange man also ends up at Willoughby Chase and so the conspiracy beging.

Almost as quickly as Miss Slighcarp and Sylvia arrive the parents depart.  Miss Slighcarp dismisses all the servants and starts wearing the gowns and jewels of Lady Green.  If all this is not bad enough, the children are then sent to a workhouse and it begins to feel as though Bonnie will never recover her former, happy life and that Sylvia will not enjoy the happy life she deserves.

Many parts of this book reminded me of The Secret Garden.  The outdoor scenes are vividly drawn and once again we have three children who work together to restore happiness to everyone.

Many years ago a full length movie of this book was released.  If you need to know a little more of the plot read one of these reviews.  Finally The Wolves of Willoughby Chase might be a stepping stone for a young reader into the books of Dickens.

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