The Wolf In The Attic by Paul Kearney reviewed

The Wolf in the Attic Book Cover The Wolf in the Attic
Paul Kearney
Fiction
Solaris
May 10, 2016
ebook
384
NetGalley

A novel that will enchant readers of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman. The fanastical appears in the middle of 1920's Oxford, home of Lewis and Tolkein as well as a young refugee looking to escape her grim reality. In 1920's Oxford a little girl called Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea. Anna remembers a time when Agamemnon came to tea, and Odysseus sat her upon his knee and told her stories of Troy. But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to have it recalled. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, and creates worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A Romany boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is. In this way she meets the only real friend she will ever know.

This book, by Paul Kearney, was one of those books where the blurb immediately aroused my interest and left me wanting to read it. Anna is in 1920s Oxford with her father and they are exiles from Greece trying to come to terms with life in England. Anna feels as though she does not really belong and she and Pie (her doll) take to wandering. In the course of those walks she meets a number of interesting characters and there are big changes to her world. The whole book is written in Anna’s voice and I personally found it entirely convincing. It is Anna’s view of the changing world she finds herself in.

The writing here was rich and lyrical to me. The characters who populate the story were well formed and interesting in the main. There are cameo parts for Tolkien and C S Lewis and I liked both of them. For me there were some faint echoes of Lyra in Pullman’s Oxford in this too. While the blurb did appeal the book was actually deeper and better than I thought it would be. Some of the other characters who appear owe much to ancient English legends and I thought they were powerfully presented. The book is both mythic and mystical in places however there is also humour and a feeling of honesty from Anna in her thoughts and deeds which I did enjoy.

While I really enjoyed the first half of the book it burst into life for me at the halfway point where I found the writing gave me goosebumps. That doesn’t happen often in my experience. Then Anna meets with a stranger in the woods and I was completely entranced. I felt that the book managed to catch the feeling of an earlier time well and the language here spoke to me of old and far older times and ways. In the end I really loved this book and it is one I will remember long after many other books I’ve read have faded from me memory.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review