For almost a decade, Rachel Caine has turned her back on home and worked in Idaho at a reservation for Wolves. As one of the few experts in her field she is summoned back to England by the eccentric Earl of Annerdale to help with his plan for re-wilding wolves on his estate in the Lake District. As Rachel attempts a gradual reconciliation with her estranged family, her work with the Earl begins to generate public outrage and the threat of sabotage. Set against a backdrop of Scottish independence and tumultuous power struggles, both locally and nationally, The Wolf Border is a novel steeped in wilderness and wildness, both animal and human.
I was first introduced to Sarah Hall some years ago when I was bought a copy of “Electric Michelangelo” – a friend felt that a book about a tattoo artist was a good gift for me, a man with an abundance of books and an abundance of tattoos. That was a fantastic book, so I was already a fan of Sarah Hall. I’m also a huge fan of Wolves – their wild beauty has always held a particular enchantment for me. So, when I found that Sarah Hall had written a book about Wolves? I was very, very excited indeed. So excited, in fact, that I bought the book in a WH Smith at Gatwick Airport, despite the fact that I hate WH Smith with a fiery passion, and was attempting to get back from holiday with a suitcase that had recently burst open and was refusing to be zipped up again…
“The Wolf Border” is a fascinating journey – a book that takes a close look at the theme of independence, whether human, animal, personal, or national. Rachel Caine is not initially a character who the reader feels a close connection with, but her personality soon shines through, and she feels incredibly human – it’s testament to Hall’s skill as a writer that she has created such a three dimensional and wonderfully fleshed out character. Everyone else in encountered in the book is also drawn with deft strokes – they are not caricatures who leap off the page, but the kind of people you know – they are clearly drawn from life, and they are stronger for it.
As for the plot – this is a hard book to categorise -one review deems it a psychological thriller, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate – it’s more a character study set amongst a beautiful and fantastically interesting backdrop. Hall chooses to use the recent Scottish Referendum as a major event in her book, but flips things around by having the Scottish choose independence. Combine this with the other themes of independence – the independence of Rachel, of the wolves, of Rachel’s brother, and of Scotland, makes this a book with so many layers i’m convinced there are still many I have yet to find.
And the wolves? The wolves are there, both real and in Rachel’s mind. Beautiful, majestic and intelligent creatures, they move the plot along and reflect Rachel’s psyche right back to her – lonesome, strong, and brilliant.
Well worth a read – this gets 5 out of 5 from me