Once There Were Wolves

Once There Were Wolves


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Reviewed by Dolores Maund.

Once There Were Wolves, Charlotte McConaghy’s second book, displays all of the author’s well-honed literary capacities which were apparent in her first novel, the much-acclaimed and deeply moving Migrations. Once There Were Wolves tells the story of a young Australian biologist who heads a team which, as part of a project of rewilding, is in the process of introducing wolves into a national park in Scotland. This immensely absorbing story is told from the perspective of Inti Flynn, the leader of the team, and it is the descriptions of her rich interior life and acute observations which give the novel its force. Through this means Once There Were Wolves affords the reader the vicarious experience of gleaning the workings of a highly sensitive and intelligent mind at play. The way in which Mc Conaghy is able to elicit deep feelings for her characters, all of whom are convincingly and memorably drawn, is yet another of her many impressive abilities. She also exhibits a highly developed facility for illuminating those broad forces which shape human behaviour while at the same time recognising when such an attempt eludes even the keenest of observers. Her descriptions of the landscape and the wolves are imbued with a poetic sensibility though, as the novel is written from the perspective of Inti Flynn, the book as a whole is written in a contemporary conversational style typical of many young people. The gradual and surprising way in which the story unfolds not only makes for compelling reading but further reveals her skill as a master story teller.


McConaghy is not one to skim the surface of life but rather writes for the reflective reader and in doing so provides a form of solace which good quality literature most often does. I found Once There Were Wolves an extremely engaging and thought-provoking book as I suspect many other readers will also do.  Those of you who have not yet read this book have a deeply satisfying experience awaiting you.


Other Reviews


‘So damn good. A page-turner that makes you think and has a huge emotional impact’ Jeff VanderMeer New York Times bestselling author of Annihilation

Blazing...Visceral...As McConaghy shows in this stunning book, the limits of language lead us to the limits of empathy -- Lorraine Berry * Los Angeles Times *

Bold...A heartfelt and earnest novel * The New York Times Book Review *

Once There Were Wolves is one of those very rare, special novels that changes you as you read, which you do as slowly as you can because you want to savor it, except the pages keep turning furiously because the story is so thrilling and so powerful. It's beautifully written and smart and impressively, importantly atmospheric. And it's also funny and warm and perfectly crafted with some of the best characters I have ever read. I will be enthusiastically recommending this novel to everyone forever. Charlotte McConaghy has cemented herself as a sure-thing, must-read writer for me. I loved loved loved this book -- Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is

This heart-pounding novel digs into the complex relationships between humans and the creatures with which we share the natural world * Newsweek *

Suspenseful and poignant...humans and animals alike can break our hearts * Scientific American *

Far more than an old wolves' tale. Instead, it illustrates what it's like to be an outsider from both a human and animal perspective and the level of healing and acceptance it takes from within to be accepted and to accept yourself * Electric Literature *

The Australian author made waves with last summer's Migrations, a meditation on climate change and loneliness, and returns with a new story set in the Scottish Highlands, where two twin sisters join a team attempting to reintroduce a pack of wolves to their natural surroundings * Entertainment Weekly *

McConaghy excels at conveying the sensuous experience of nature and the emotions it provokes: wonder at its majesty, sorrow at its destruction. Unflinching in its view of the harm humans inflict on the environment and on each other and insisting on the interconnectedness of the two Once There Were Wolves delivers a powerful call for hope in the face of catastrophe * Shelf Awareness *

Vividly realized... Gorgeously rendered...A story full of subtle surprises...This is a stunner * Publishers Weekly *

Poetic...A lovely, gripping tale about a world that could be our own * Kirkus *