Sep 29, 2010
THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES by Stef Penney
review by Nicolas Lezard from The Guardian UK
Some eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Stef Penney had won the Costa (previously Whitbread) first novel award: although it is set in Canada, she had done all the research for her novel in the British Library and, being agoraphobic, had not set foot in Canada at all.
Yet this doesn't seem to be a problem. The novel is set in 1867, about a century before her birth, and how she's going to get back to that time without a time machine escapes me. Besides, it is not necessary to visit the location of one's novels; Saul Bellow didn't go to Africa before writing Henderson the Rain King; nor, for that matter, did Julie Burchill visit Prague to write No Exit. Actually, you can easily tell, for slightly differing reasons, that neither author visited the scenes they wrote about. But Penney's evocation of the frozen lands of northern Canada couldn't ring truer if she'd spent months wandering through the land with nothing but a pack of huskies and a native tracker for company. (If there is a possibility that the judges' decision was in some way skewed, one might more usefully look at the way that coffee figures repeatedly in the novel.) READ MORE....
at 4:49 PM