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The Tenderness of Wolves [Kindle Edition]

Stef Penney
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1867, Canada: as winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man's cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township - journalists, Hudson's Bay Company men, trappers, traders - but do they want to solve the crime or exploit it?

One-by-one the assembled searchers set out from Dove River, pursuing the tracks across a desolate landscape home only to wild animals, madmen and fugitives, variously seeking a murderer, a son, two sisters missing for 17 years, a Native American culture, and a fortune in stolen furs before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good.

In an astonishingly assured debut Stef Penney deftly weaves adventure, suspense, revelation and humour into a story that is both panoramic historical romance and exhilarating thriller. The Tenderness of Wolves is one of the most widely liked and admired novels of the previous decade.

Product Description


A fascinating, suspense-filled adventure, a refreshing contrast to the conventional murder mystery - Sunday Telegraph

An original and readable mixture of mystery and history, with a good dollop of old-fashioned adventure - The Times

Suspenseful epic, offering a leitmotif of constant unease … impressive - Guardian

An entertaining and well-written adventure thriller - Spectator

A quite remarkable debut novel...atmospheric and delicately written mystery - Birmingham Post

From the Publisher

Winner of the Costa Book Award 2007

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 559 KB
  • Print Length: 406 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416571302
  • Publisher: Quercus; New edition edition (8 Feb. 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847240674
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847240675
  • ASIN: B0038QN28A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #22,349 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Stef Penney was born and grew up in Edinburgh. After a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Bristol University she turned to film-making, studying Film and TV at Bournemouth College of Art. On graduation she was selected for the Carlton Television New Writers Scheme and has since written and directed two short films. Her first novel, The Tenderness of Wolves is a world-wide bestseller and prolific award-winner. Stef lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
169 of 174 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, gripping thriller 12 Feb. 2007
By Amanda Craig HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stef Penney's debut has attracted some hostility from the literary establishment on winning the Costa (formerly Whitbread) prize as Book of the Year,largely because "nobody has read it" and the author researched her subject in libraries rather than by trekking through the wastes of Canada. Well, stuff them. It's a terrific novel, and the judges were absolutely right to prefer it over Boyd's latest or even the charming memoir about a happy East End childhood.

Mrs. Ross, the narrator, is a Scottish pioneer and ex-asylum inmate who discovers the body of a French trapper, murdered and scalped in his house near Dove river. Her beautiful, adopted 17 year old son Francis has disappeared, and so has the victim's money and a piece of bone which may prove the "Indians" had a written culture. A half-breed Cherokee trapper is arrested and beaten up to try nad force a confession out of him, but the magistrate has more compassion than the fur-trading company to whom all are in thrall, and releases him. Mrs Ross and Parker embark on an epic journey, tracking her son and another, fainter set of footprints, across snow and ice. In their wake are more Company hunters, bent on tracking them down...

It is a wonderful story, set in 1867 and featuring an agoraphobic heroine who must overcome her fears (and her growing passion for her guide) to find justice. In many ways it reminded me of Ursula le Guin's masterpiece, The Left-Hand of Darkness, for though this is meticulously researched historical fiction, not fantasy, it shares the same sense of passion and desperation growing on the extreme edges of civilisation. All the characters are well-drawn, and though the narrative switches between first and third person, it is consistently interesting and beautifully written.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many ideas in a first novel? 23 Sept. 2007
This is a strange book, enthralling, with a great deal of beauty in it but also with a number of significant flaws. To start on the positives, the descriptions of landscape are excellent. Also Mrs Ross is an intriguiging character, one gets to know her, but there is also a great deal unknown about her. I may be giving too much credit, but it feels like there is a great deal to her that we don't learn about (rather than her just being shallow). Thirdly the central plot is nicely intricate and well resolved.

On the down side, it just feels as if the author had too many ideas, which, as this was her first novel, she felt compelled to include. There are just too many peripheral characters and subplots which remain unresolved. What is the 'Line' subplot in there for ?. Also the frequent change of narrative voice gives the book an unwelcome fragmentation. Thirdly, probably as a result of the fragmentation, the characters remain rather distant and undeveloped.

On balance I would give this book the thumbs up and say that it is worth buying and reading, but with caveats.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy and enjoyable 6 Aug. 2007
By Suzie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first few chapters of this book failed to capture my interest, but as I read on I became more and more engrossed. Part of the problem was my initial dislike for the main protagonist, Mrs Ross, who seemed aloof and unsympathetic. But as more of her motivations and background were revealed she became someone with whom it was easier to empathise. She was certainly courageous.

Various threads have been cleverly woven into this accomplished first novel, although I agree that the bone tablet seems little more than a distraction. No doubt with more thought it could have had greater relevance. There are a lot of characters, but the author handled her large cast effectively, avoiding any confusion about who they all were.

The ending is perhaps a bit sudden, predictable even (but only late in the book), and although there are some loose ends, they were not left hanging entirely free - there is nothing wrong with being left to imagine what might or might not ensue from the hints and insinuations scattered through the final chapters.

As others have said, one of the strengths of the book is its portrayal of vast snow-covered forests and wilderness. There are other books with an equally strong if not better sense of coldness - Helen Dunmore's 'The Siege' and 'A Spell of Winter', for instance, or Anita Shreve's 'Light on Snow' - but nevertheless, Stef Penney's descriptions are shiveringly realistic.

It is obvious from the other reviews that the book has disappointed some. It isn't perfect, but I can only say that I found it an easy and enjoyable read - and certainly one I would recommend.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A COMEDY OF ERRORS 1 Dec. 2007
A beautifully written book. It cleverly alternates between the story and the narrative told by its heroin Mrs Ross; who in the Canadian winter of 1867 trecked north from Georgian Bay, in search of her missing son.
From Georgian Bay she follows her sons trail through the forest of central Canada and out onto the treeless tundra that stretches north to the frozen Hudson Bay.
But Penney Stef has never visited Canada and clearly has no concept of distance or climate. The Hudson Bay Co territory covered three million square miles -ten times the size of the Holy Roman Empire.
Stef Penny takes them across the tundra to an HBC fort in a couple of days. In a country where it takes three days to drive along the north shore of L. Superior!
Neither does Penney have any concept of winter climate.
The Hudson Bay history records "..great fires burned in the hearths of York Fort.. but made little difference in a climate where quicksilver in the thermometers froze solid".
In contrast Penney's heroin narrates [p246] a blizzard on the freezing tundra "..the tent is gone, the wind is screaming... [the men] light the fire for tea, huddling round with scorching fingers... I watch the men smoking their pipes, a warm and soothing thing". Oops!
An excellent first novel made all the more remarkable by Penney never having been to Canada. But a black mark on 'Quercus' for failing to pick up on some glaring errors that make the story unbelievable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Either the author has no understanding of grammar or she was trying to...
My biggest relief and sense of accomplishment was in finishing this book. If it hadn't been our Book Club choice this month I would have never read further than the sample... Read more
Published 7 days ago by roseanya
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Purchased for a friend who loved it
Published 1 month ago by J. Pettifer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A beautifully written book which captures the period and locus well
Published 1 month ago by john niven
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and assured award winning debut historical thriller
It’s 1867 in Canada. Mrs Ross lives with her husband and adopted son, Francis in the frontier town of Dove River. Read more
Published 1 month ago by I Read, Therefore I Blog
5.0 out of 5 stars A sophisticated who dunnit set in a hostile environment
This is such a good book, lots of tension, drama, diverse characters, red herrings galore. And perhaps most amazingly, written by a Scottish woman who suffers from agoraphobia and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kiwiflora
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended read
Brilliant book with beautiful descriptions and very touching story. The landscape views are so realistic that you can smell the forest and feel the snow under your feet. Read more
Published 2 months ago by NL
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by DAVID SHEARING
5.0 out of 5 stars visually beautiful, brings me back to the silence of the ...
Just strikes a chord with me for whatever reason, quiet, visually beautiful, brings me back to the silence of the woods I love to spend time in in northern canada, one of my... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Geraldine McCullagh
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Good but not as good as the later book The Invisible Ones....
Published 5 months ago by Anne P Howieson
3.0 out of 5 stars but a good read.
Unusual ,but a good read.
Published 5 months ago by Kindle Customer Wendy R.
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