Monday, July 20, 2015
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
Sarah Hall's The Wolf Border is a character-based novel that progresses at a measured pace. I happened to be reading a book with similar themes concurrently: The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson. Both are about wildness, power, truth and lies, and feature people who have difficulty forging human connections. Both stories use weather to reflect the protagonists' emotional states. Here is a sample of Hall's lyrical prose:
"All week, rain. Big splashing drops on every surface, like a child's illustration of rain. Blue vanishing light and winds from nowhere, bringing slant, destructive showers, or fine drizzle. At night there is rain that exists only as sound on the cottage roof, leaving doused grass in the morning and pools in the rutted lane. The streams and rivers on the estate swell. Spawn clings to submerged rocks and reeds as the current tugs. The lake accepts the extra volume indifferently. And then, when it seems the rain will never end, there's an explosion of sunshine, the startling heat of it through the cool spring air. Within days a green wildness takes over Annerdale."
I first encountered Sarah Hall's writing in her feminist dystopia Daughters of the North (The Carhullan Army is the UK title) some seven years ago. I also enjoyed How to Paint a Dead Man, a stimulating and astonishing novel. Hall has received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the BBC National Short Story Award, the Portico Prize for Fiction, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the E M Forster Award. The Wolf Border was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Readalikes: Wild Dogs or The Evening Chorus (Helen Humphreys); Adult Onset (Ann-Marie MacDonald); All the Birds Singing (Evie Wyld); and Fauna (Alissa York). For a much shorter readalike, try The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, which is only 181 pages compared to The Wolf Border's 435. I'm not saying shorter is better, by the way. It is all about style, and both authors have used what seems the correct number of words to tell their respective stories.