Book Review: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
By Joan Aiken
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 gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a children’s novel from the 1960’s. I would have loved this book as a child when I was about 10-12 if I had known about it then. Bonnie and Sylvia are similar to Sara Crewe in A Little Princess because they are plucky, kind to others and suffer at the hands of evil, money-grubbing adults.
I wish there were more scenes with wolves. There are two main wolf scenes, one where Sylvia is traveling by train and again when the cousins are caught outside skating. I would have liked to see the wolves again at the end of the novel when Miss Slighcarp receives her comeuppance. Girl’s reading this will be stunned that Willoughby, Bonnie’s father, couldn’t have identified Miss Slighcarp as a beast. Readers will be hot with fury at the mistreatment the girls receive at the hands of Mrs. Brisket. Simon is the kind of sweet boy that little girls will love for his geese. Of course, everyone would like to discover a secret passage, and Bonnie and Sylvia are lucky enough to have lots of secrets in the ancestral home at their disposal. The wolves are terrifying, but Miss Slighcarp, Mr. Grimshaw and Mrs. Brisket are by far more dangerous as a moral lesson.
Because this is an older book, the rhythm is slower and the details more elegant. There will also be words children are not familiar with today. Children would enjoy it more if it was read to them, rather than reading it on their own. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase will mostly be enjoyed by girls. I did an experiment and read some to my youngest son, he was bored and wanted more action and lots more wolves, guns and mayhem.