Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Published September 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’t it all about?:

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 seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.

With the help of Simon the goose boy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I picked The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase on a bit of a whim when we were researching our list for 2016 but oh my goodness I am ever so glad we did, as this little gem seems to have flown completely under my radar prior to now. Even better, I’ve now discovered that it’s part of a series (The Wolves Chronicles) of twelve books set in the same fictional early 19th century world where wolves have entered Britain through a new “channel tunnel,” terrorising the occupants of more rural areas. Oh, I’m definitely going to be exploring this series! The author herself wrote over one hundred books for adults and children in her lifetime, winning the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature.

This is the story of two cousins, wealthy Bonnie Willoughby and her poorer cousin Sylvia who comes by train to live with Bonnie when her Aunt Jane cannot physically or financially support her any longer. Bonnie has a huge heart and a fiesty spirit and is delighted to welcome Sylvia into her home, taking her firmly under her wing and showering her with love. Bonnie’s parents are due to go abroad for a while due to Bonnie’s mothers ill health and so her father has appointed a guardian, Miss Slighcarp to look after the children in their absence. However, Miss Slighcarp is not all she seems and has grand (and very evil) plans for Willoughby Chase that categorically do not involve the children. Before long, both girls are shunted off to an orphanage where the owner, Miss Brisket makes them work their fingers to the bone to earn their keep on very little nourishment. Meanwhile, the dastardly Miss Slighcarp and her partner in crime Mr Grimshaw have completely taken over Mr Willoughby’s wealth, house and livelihood with wicked plans to ensure that he and his wife never return from their travels.

Chrissi actually finished this book before I started it and she immediately texted me and told me how much she loved it, comparing it to A Little Princess (one of her all-time favourite books). This was high praise indeed and I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to love it too. Just how much however, I certainly wasn’t prepared for! First published in 1962, this book reads like every classic piece of children’s literature should and has everything going for it so that it can be enjoyed by future generations for I hope, many years to come. We have wonderful characterisation – from the good (Bonnie, Sylvia, Pattern the maid) to the downright nasty villainous types (Miss Slighcarp, Mr Grimshaw) and a thrilling plot that is so enthralling you can easily read this book in one sitting. It’s the sort of book that’s perfect to read as Autumn is closing in, with a nice blanket, cup of hot chocolate and even a little shiver down the spine as you read about two loveable little girls and criminals you’re just praying will get their comeuppance.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Miss Slighcarp, Bonnie and Sylvia – illustration by Pat Marriott

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9 comments on “Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

  • Oh wow, this is one of my VERY FAVORITES! I’ve loved this book every since I was a little girl, and still end up reading it about once a year. I wanted to be Bonnie when I was a little girl! (Okay, I’ll be honest, I kind of wanted to be Simon, too.)

    I will say that a couple of years ago I read the rest of the series for the first time… and it was really disappointing. While some of the books were alright, Bonnie and Sylvia basically never appear again. And the further the series the went, the weirder and more violent the books got. It was really sad because I love Willoughby Chase so much, and have actually read a couple of Aiken’s period novels that I also liked a lot, but the rest of the Wolves books just got… weird.

    Anyway, I have reviews on my blog if you’re interested, and you still may want to give them a whirl – someone must like them, so maybe you’re one of those someones! 😀

    • Hi Sarah, I can’t believe I haven’t read it sooner, it was SO lovely! Shame to hear the following books were a bit disappointing for you – did you read the prequel which she won the Guardian Fiction Prize for and what did you think? 🙂

      • I didn’t even know about the prequel! So no, that is one I will still have to check out. I reread my reviews for the following books, and it appears that I still liked the next couple of books after Willoughby. I think it was around book 4 that things started to get really weird and kind of violent (especially for children’s books – if I remember correctly, a lot of my objections to the writing was that it seemed overly dark for a children’s books – things like cannibal witches and vivid descriptions of people dying). So you’ll have to read a few and let me know if you like them despite my attempts to prejudice you against them! 😀

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