Book Review

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall


Rating: ★★★★☆

The Wolf Border focuses on a controversial scheme to reintroduce wolves to the British countryside.  The scheme has been Initiated by eccentric Earl Thomas Pennington, who has the money, land and political connections to make his ambitious scheme a reality.

He hires Rachel Caine to manage the project.  A Cumbrian native, Rachel has spent the last 10 years living and working on a reservation in Idaho monitoring the wolves there.

Her return to the UK is anything but simple.  The Earl’s project is challenging, and provokes both media and public outrage.  Unexpectedly pregnant, she also has the prospect of being a single mother to deal with, whilst also trying to reconnect with her brother and his difficult wife.

I really enjoyed The Wolf Border.  I thought that it presented the possibility of re-establishing a predator such as the wolf into the British countryside realistically, both in terms of the benefits of doing so as well as the public reaction, driven by fear and a lack of understanding, that such a scheme would generate.  Hall doesn’t seek to preach through the novel, however, it’s more a consideration of what such a scheme could be like, rather than saying that we should / shouldn’t undertake such a mission.  And the idea isn’t all far-fetched – there are schemes under way to begin to reintroduce some species, wolves included, to the UK countryside, with the aim of improving biodiversity.

As a female lead, I found Rachel to be completely refreshing.  Here is someone who isn’t deliberately seeking love (although she is willing to make the effort when the opportunity arises).  Her pregnancy is the result of a careless one-night stand, rather than any desire for motherhood.  And has her due date approaches, you sense that she’s completely unprepared for raising a child, although she approaches it with the same practical determination with which she approaches all of her tasks.  Wonderful, independent and strong, she’s atypical, and I really enjoyed reading about someone who’s a little different.

Throughout the novel, Hall’s prose is stunning, and engages all of the reader’s senses.  Some readers may struggle with the somewhat unemotional tone that is adopted, and yet I felt that it suited the novel perfectly.  I haven’t read any of Hall’s other work so far, but I’ll definitely be picking up further novels of hers on the strength of this one.

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