Review of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken, read by Lizza Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

by Joan Aiken
read by Lizza Aiken

Listening Library, 2012. The book was written in 1962. 5 hours on 4 compact discs.
Starred Review

Why had I never read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase before? I remember seeing it as a child, and I think I may have even checked it out once, but it looked far too dark for me. (I never have really liked dark books.) This time reading it, I was completely enchanted. Yes, the girls triumph over adversity, but I wouldn’t even call this book “dark” now that I’m an adult. I guess the Edward Gorey illustrations were too much for me.

And this 50th anniversary production is especially delightful in that it’s read by the author’s daughter. And she talks at the beginning about the writing of the book and the adversity her mother faced in her own life. Her mother had a gap of ten years in writing, and read the chapters to her children when she finally took it up again. For me, this inside information made me enjoy the story all the more.

The story is wonderful. As they point out in the introduction, we’ve got orphan girls with everyone set against them. They must figure out a way to escape and somehow set things to rights, and they do so on their own power. The sinister wolves add atmosphere and drama and probably too much darkness for the little girl I once was. But this audio production would make marvelous family listening. (If it gets too scary, you can comfort any little ones listening.)

The story is old-fashioned and melodramatic, but there’s so much to love. This classic was #57 in Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels Poll. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it.

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

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