Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
Once there were wolves in Scotland, and Inti hopes that this will be the day when there will be wolves again. She and her team will release fourteen wolves into a landscape ravaged by deer and man in a hope to heal the land. But it’s not just the land that needs healing, for Inti and her twin sister Aggie have horrors in their past.
The memory of forty thousand aspens breathing around me, their canopy not naked but canary yellow and as vivid as his voice in my ear. It’s dying. We are killing it.
Trigger warning for rape, domestic abuse and animal deaths.
When driven by fear what are you capable of? And what will you do to protect what you love?
Charlotte McConaghy knows how to make me cry with her beautiful writing and she is fast becoming an instant-buy author. After following the Arctic Terns in Migrations, she now turns her pen towards the wolf, following a team trying to reintroduce them to Scotland. With no large predators in Scotland, the deer can get out of control and eat everything in sight, preventing rewilding success. In theory the wolves will keep the deer population in check, allowing other flora and fauna the chance to move in.
Of course, wolves come with a reputation, and there are objections from the locals. Mostly farmers worried for their livestock, and livelihoods, but also others who fear that the wolves will attack humans.
We blinked and life was returned to how it had been, only I felt a wild creature stuffed into the body of a human.
At first I felt it was a bit us versus them. Inti doesn’t give the locals much of a chance, instantly defensive, she judges their fear, their dislike of the wolves. It is all told from her perspective, so it is not balanced, but as she spends time amongst them, she does start to hear more supportive voices, and most of those she judged harshly come out OK. It speaks of passion and fear.
I totally understand that sheep farmers would worry about the presence of wolves, but there are also a lot of traditional farmers who want to support conservation. It’s implied that the land is dying and rewilding is its last hope. It’s no good raising sheep if there’s nothing for the sheep to eat.
Inti has mirror touch synaesthesia, which means she wrongly interprets sensations she sees as those of her own. When her father gutted a rabbit, she felt like she was being gutted. This has made it hard for her to form relationships, but has also given her more empathy to the natural world.
The story mostly deals with the release of the wolves and what happens when Inti finds a man dead in the woods. Was it the wolves or is there a human killer on the loose? She can’t bear for it to be the wolves, if anyone thought so it would be the end of the project and all the wolves would be killed for sure.
It is easy to tell myself that what passes between them is only biology, nature, but then who said love does not exist in the nature of all things?
Through flashbacks, we also learn about Inti and Aggie’s life before, growing up with their father in the wilds of Alaska, how Inti deals with her condition and what happened to take away Aggie’s voice.
Incredibly moving, at the same time exploring man’s impact on the natural world, I loved Once There Were Wolves.
Once There Were Wolves is published by Chatto & Windus in the UK and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 20th January. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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