The Wolf by Joseph Smith

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The Wolf by Joseph Smith

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautiful and fatalistic this is a haunting glimpse into the mind of a predator. It's beautifully realised with not a word wasted. Recommended for all those who enjoy classy writing, whatever the subject.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: August 2006
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 0224085190

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The press sheet tells me that The Wolf is a stunning combination of nature writing and imagination. And it is. And to be honest, I'm left wondering what else there is to say about it without spoiling it for you.

It's winter-time. Snow is on the ground, even in the dense forest. This winter seems to have lasted longer than previous ones and the wolf needs a meal, living perilously close to the point when hunger weakens it and it can no longer hunt. Then, it knows, it will die. Its senses sharpened, it drinks in its experiences, glorying in the landscape, the snow, the hunt, and above all, itself.

The wolf knows what it is. It is a predator. It takes life and in many ways it sustains life. It sees deep into the eyes of its victims. It honours them, but it despises them too. It understands itself and it understands others through their eyes, looking deep into the secrets revealed at the moment of death. But this cruel winter is prising open cracks in the wolf's ascendancy and still worse, in its understanding of its world. And so, when it meets another predator, also on the brink of starvation, it makes a decision whose consequences reverberate for the rest of its life.

And a stunning combination of nature writing and imagination it is. Smith describes a snowy wintry landscape afresh. We look out at world seen by another and understand it in a very different way. We also look in, into the mind of a predator of staggering elegance, beauty and efficiency. We are also asked to confront mortality and the very essence of life.

I don't want to say a great deal about The Wolf. It's a short novella of just one hundred and fifty pages and you should savour them all, without my signposting. It's elegant, it's beautiful, it's savage, and there isn't a wasted word. If you like classy writing, you will love it.

My thanks to the nice people at Jonathan Cape for sending the book.

You can get The Wolf and Taurus in one edition.

If you enjoy descriptions of the snow, you might like the poetic crime novel Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg. If getting inside the head of an animal interests you more, then if you haven't read Call of the Wild by Jack London yet, you'll love it.

Booklists.jpg The Wolf by Joseph Smith is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2010.

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