Book Reviews

The Wolf Border – Sarah Hall (2015)

The last book from my university reading list and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint (considering it was short listed for the Man Booker Prize I wasn’t surprised). We follow the journey of Rachel Caine as she travels back from America to the north of England by the Scottish border to re-home a pair of wolves back into the wild for an extravagant English Earl. Set against the backdrop of Scotland’s independence vote it plays itself out in the forefront of the novel with constant reminders of how the vote will affect each of the countries.

As this is still a relatively fresh topic for many in England and Scotland with Scottish ministers announcing another possible vote Hall is tackling one of the many problems that we in England still face, colonisation and independence. For the English Earls and ministers a “Yes” vote spells out trouble which is highlighted through Earl Thomas Pennington’s own campaign to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom. At the beginning of the novel it is not-to-subtly hinted at the power he still holds from his title, getting permission granted for the wolf’s enclosure to be built on National Trust Land being one of the main points. At the end of the novel when the vote has been concluded Hall makes it very clear the amount of power that the Earl still holds throughout both countries with his many trips to the north of the border and his influence in the decision.

While the wolves are an instrument in which brings Rachel and the Earl together her own family issues are the main focus of her journey. The reconciliation with her brother and the secret that he hides helps her to heal herself as well as him. In Rachel we see the working single mother struggling to juggle her home life with her work life; we see her family helping her which is often the case for those who cannot find adequate home care for her child. Like the wolves she and her brother take it in turns caring for Charlie and working when they can.

At the beginning of the novel Rachel’s character is laid bare for all to see, her relationship with her mother seems to clearly define the path that she will take in life and her relationship with her brother. After her mother dies she is free from she believes was holding her back from connecting to others and she is able to reconcile with her brother. With the arrival of Charlie she is determined to do right by him to stop herself from becoming her mother and to stop him from becoming the man Lawrence has turn into.

Not the type of book I would normally read (literary fiction) I can see why my lecturer has decided to put it on the reading list. The lack of punctuation when speaking opens up a dialogue as to why Hall has made this decision, it could be that there are no physical borders between speech much like there is no physical border between England and Scotland. I enjoyed the book and the protagonists development was clear and enriching. I look forward to reading more into the book in the coming weeks.


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