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Tenderness Of Wolves Hardcover – Sep 26 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Canada (AHC) (Sept. 26 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670066109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670066100
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,847,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Mysteries also dominate this confident and complex portrait of 1860s Ontario. Although Stef Penney, an agoraphobic, lives in Edinburgh, she is the grandniece of Norman Bethune. The characters and lives she creates-consulting Hudson’s Bay Company records from the British Museum-attain a larger-than-life dimension. Our only first-person narrator, an aloof woman with a history of confinement in Scottish asylums, is Mrs. Ross, who discovers the bloodied corpse of Laurent Jammet, a French trapper and trader. Soon the local magistrate, various Hudson’s Bay Company investigators, and acquaintances of the deceased-including a native Canadian and a man very interested in something Jammet has acquired-are popping in and out of the narrative with an assortment of goals in mind.
Closer to home is the problem of Mrs. Ross’s teenaged son, the troubled Francis, who vanished the night of the murder. Francis at first tops the list of suspects, but is soon replaced by William Parker, a taciturn native who knew the slain man. When her son doesn’t return, Mrs. Ross takes off to find him with Parker as her guide. Penney creates an engrossing narrative, connecting the dots across different social strata in the colony. Eerily adept at depicting a range of human traits-and hinting at more-she also teases us with an older mystery, the disappearance of two young girls from the Georgian Bay community several years before.
Between twists and turns of plot, Penney evokes the land-its shades of light and changes of weather, its marshes and treacherous waters. Rarely has winter seemed so febrile. One strange northern community gives way to the next-from a settlement of pious Norwegians to a decayed outpost peopled by those whom the Company has seen fit to exile. Something rather Conrad-like surfaces in the portrait of Mr. Stewart, the Company man gone bad. Yet masculine and feminine elements are fully balanced; there’s not only the complicated Mrs. Ross and her tormented son, but also a sensual Norwegian widow named Line, determined to escape the sanctuary she has found with her fellow countrymen. This one is a powerhouse.
Nancy Wigston (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada

'"The Tenderness of Wolves" is a brilliant novel about people living on the fringes, both literally and figuratively. Penney has artfully blended warmth and poetic austerity. I loved it.' -- Paul Quarrington, author of "Galveston" and "Whale Music"

'A richly detailed mystery that brings the isolation of the Canadian North vividly to life ... Stef Penney is clearly a talented writer...' -- Quill & Quire

'I now believe in reincarnation. Stef Penney was clearly, undeniably, once a settler in the harsh pre-Cambrian Shield that runs across this country ... like a spine. She has captured the terror, the loneliness, the hope and even the way winter light falls on the edge of the lake. "The Tenderness of Wolves" is an unnerving book, brilliantly executed, and could only have been written by someone who was actually there, taking careful notes.' -- Roy MacGregor, author of "A Life in the Bush" and "The Weekender"

'Stef Penney's debut is written with wicked clarity and beauty. Part mystery, part historical drama,"The Tenderness of Wolves" is a tale as crisp and driven as Georgian Bay snow. One of the most assured and memorable debuts I've had the fortune to read.' -- Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road

'Tender is Ms. Penney's talent, carrying a village of characters - and ultimately the reader — into mystery, history, and the wilderness of being human. A fine and compelling book.' -- Seth Kantner, author of "Ordinary Wolves"

About the Author

Stef Penney was born and grew up in Edinburgh. She has written and directed two short films. The Tenderness of Wolves is her first novel.

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Format: Paperback
In the Canadian winter of 1867, near the remote settlement of Caulfield, Laurent Jammet is found murdered. His body is discovered by Mrs Ross, whose first-person narrative is one thread of the story. Mrs Ross's son, Francis, is a friend of Laurent Jammet. When Francis doesn't return home after Jammet's murder, he becomes a suspect.

A search for Jammet's murderer is soon organised. The searchers include Mrs Ross and Donald Moody, representing the Hudson Bay Company. Others join the search as well, and the community is reminded of an earlier search for two young sisters who disappeared some years earlier.

Solving Jammet's murder is not the only truth being sought, and there are a number of other mysteries to be explored and motives to be understood. The wintry landscape both hides and preserves the pasts of some characters, as well as some of the evidence.

`Doesn't it always matter, finding the truth?'

It's a challenge at times to follow the various narrative strands, but it becomes easier as the story progresses. There are a number of sub-plots which add different dimensions to what otherwise might be a straightforward murder investigation. The weather, the past and the country each play a part in the story.
I enjoyed this novel and while I fleetingly wished that all loose ends had been tied off at the end, I realised that would not have worked. Not for this novel.

`The sound is inescapable; quiet but insistent, like conscience.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Paperback
This first novel has all the elements of a good read: beautiful prose, a gripping story, and interesting history and description of places I've never been. If you like Joseph Boyden's novels, this lesser-known will not disappoint.

The perspective is interesting in that the story is told from various points of view, but only one of the characters (Mrs Ross) uses the first person. The tone is foreboding and haunting, continually giving the impression that something major is about to happen.

I agree with the other reviewer that the ending seemed rushed and left some loose ends. But I also appreciated that Stef Penney avoided the Hollywood ending in which every character ends up finding their love and living happily ever after. This seemed more realistic, even if I was left wanting more and feeling deflated that the story was over.

One minor complaint is that the photo on the cover looks like British Columbia, not northern Ontario.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a beautifully written story. I especially enjoyed the details with character building and the plot kept my attention throughout. The only downside is the ending. I was disappointed at how rushed the last chapter (or two) seemed (not the way it ended but how quickly the loose ends were tied). I would rather have read another two chapters than have it end so quickly. However, I would still recommend it as a great read.
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Format: Paperback
I loved this book. What an amazing first novel. The characters were compelling, the story gripping and the writing wonderful. I love Canadian history and this book made me feel like I had taken a visit to the past.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 144 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's cold up there! Nov. 18 2007
By Scott Baker - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel
Stef Penney creates a frozen rural setting in which the characters struggle to unfreeze even their feelings. Set in the cold north of the 1860s, "The Tenderness of Wolves" is a slow-paced thriller dealing with a murder in the time way before CSI, or even formal police departments. A number of parties are interested in tracking down the killer of a reclusive trapper, and all of them have ulterior motives. The story started out a little slowly at first, and I almost put it down, until I remembered that my own story, "Neitherworld" starts out slowly as well, and like Wolves, then heats up. An interesting twist to the narrative form is the way Penney tells the story in first person in some chapters and then, when the main character could not know certain things because she is not present, switches to third person. Be prepared to develop sympathy for the characters only over time. This is NOT a lapel-grabber - it is a thoughtful journey with sorrow, deep tragedies, and redemptions. It is, in other words, in the old tradition of great literature.
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Composition, Superficial Story Aug. 14 2008
By Elyon - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author's compositional and writing skills can't be faulted, and are impressive for a first novel. However, character development never grows beyond the compositional surface of the story, which is largely defined by a number of plot threads typical of the mystery genre, some of which remain very tangential. Nor did I find the blending of genres -- historical, romance, mystery -- completely successful, beyond the limited basis of a minimal story.

Another reader compared this to a screenplay, and while that is not entirely justified, I understand the analogy: the narrative stays very much at the surface and thus, while intellectually engaging, fails to become fully satisfying. That this won one of Britain's most prestigious literary awards seems inexplicable, as this novel is not particularly memorable.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read July 16 2016
By Mrs. V. K. Groenendijk - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the book but found it a bit drawn out
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Wild and Snowy Ride Feb. 26 2008
By Curious Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stef Penney has accomplished a remarkable feat in writing this unusual book. The caliber of writing is extraordinary. She combines words to flow rythmically, commencing each frequent chapter without announcing the narrator, yet connecting to the reader in an emotional way.

Her characters are rich and colorful and harsh all at the same time. She creates each character from the get-go by describing the value, the flaws and the yearning of each. And they are different - diametically individual.

The plot is tingling although at times tedious with the constant trudging through snow and snow storms, but necessary to define the purpose of the book (redemption) and to illustrate the depth of each character.

Not beach reading but pleasant and rewarding. Particularly snuggled in front of a fire, wrapped in a warm blanket and secure in your own comfort. Makes the harshness of what the charcters face more palatable.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars slow start, abrupt ending, but interesting story Nov. 3 2007
By L. Z. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel starts slowly, but if you can keep with it, it picks up. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and it takes a while to get each firmly in your mind. I enjoyed the story once it got going and became engaged. It is a story set in the past in a cold vast part of Canada told from many points of view. The characters are very interesting even though there are so many of them. It is a suspenseful story she has told in this book if you make it far enough into it. One criticism is the way she ends the story. It feels a little abrupt. It feels like she could have given a little more closure to the end. I don't need everything completed when I read a story, but the ending still felt it should have had more to it. I read this for a book club, and I would recomend this to others.