There’s a lot going on in Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves, but at its heart the novel explores culpability and guilt. The first page of the novel explains that our protagonist, Linda, held and hugged a boy, Paul, who died. What follows is how Paul died, and more significantly, why he died (as his death, we learn, was far from inevitable). Continue reading
Tag Archives: murder
History of Wolves: Booker Prize shortlist meet Minnesota winter; or, what to read on your holiday break
I couldn’t remember the title of this book when I sat down to write, so I popped into google the things I could remember: novel, nineteenth century, crofter, bloody, murder, Scotland. And pop! Google knew exactly the title because there aren’t many novels set in the 1880s Scotland about a murderous crofter. (Probably there’s just this one.) Google also wanted me to know that Graeme Macrae Burnet is the author. You probably wanted to know, too. Continue reading
I wish I had written this post two weeks ago when I’d finished reading Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall. Two weeks ago I had insightful things to say. Now I can only tell you that I read the whole thing in 36 hours and that it has something to do with a plane crash. It’s worth considering why I read anything when I really and truly can’t remember basic plot points or thematic questions less than two weeks later. I’ll console myself by thinking that I read because I enjoy the novel while I’m reading it, even if I’m certain to forget the entire thing almost immediately.
Anyway. What I do remember: it’s a murder mystery. There’s quite a bit of focus on incredibly wealthy people and the luxurious stuff they own. I usually find these kinds of descriptions of wealth obnoxious (and an obvious show that the novel wants to be turned into a movie where everyone and everything will be Glossy and Shiny and Gold) and an implicit reinforcement that wealthy people not only have more money but are fundamentally better than us workers. This novel was no exception: rich people have better things, more interesting lives, access to power and influence, and generally get whatever they want. The rest of us are just along for the ride to show them how great they are. And in this case when the reader is (almost certainly) not a disgustingly wealthy person, the reading is an exercise in unsolicited envy as we’re made to identify with these rich folks only to look up from our novel and see a living room still populated by second hand furniture and IKEA cabinets. Oh well.
There’s a great opening scene with swimming that I do have a vivid recollection of and found quite captivating.
On the murder bits: there’s a twisty surprise ending that you will recognize as a twisty surprise ending and – if you’re like me – be not at all impressed by.
So yep. I devoured it because it was plotty and full of the described wealth envy (and some readerly self loathing). If you’re keen on well written murder mysteries: go forth! Otherwise…
Mostly I find nineteenth-century Arctic shipwreck stories too familiar (even though – or because? – it’s a very particular category). One of my thesis novels, Afterlands, was all Arctic shipwreck all the time. And I must have read and re-read that novel a dozen times. Too many times to read much about whale blubber without shuddering with concern that someone might ask me about the significance of the whale. or the blubber. But how often do we read in this niche category? Obviously not often. Unless you’re someone who re-reads Moby Dick. In which case you are someone with other kinds of (whale blubber) problems. Continue reading