I was ill a few weeks ago and couldn’t concentrate on my current book, so picked up this old favourite of mine from my childhood instead.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is packed with all of the right ingredients to make a smashing children’s adventure. When Sir Willoughby and his wife leave for a long trip abroad, they arrange for their daughter and niece to be looked after by a distant relative, the perfectly named Miss Slighcarp. With a name like that, it’s no surprise when the stern governess turns out to be a villainous and scheming woman with a plot to steal all of Sir Willoughby’s money. The two girls, Bonnie and Sylvia suffer much cruelty at the hands of their ghastly governess and later in a nearby orphanage workhouse. However, the girls are resourceful and with the help of Simon, a goose boy who lives in the woods, they plan their escape.
The predictable plot does not take away from the enjoyment of this book, which I found just as spellbinding as the first time I read it. The settings, first the grand Willoughby Chase covered in snow, then the cold and unforgiving orphanage in the dirty town of Blastburn, and finally the bustling streets of London are the perfect places to read about when safely curled up under a blanket or by a fire. And it’s still easy to imagine the blood curdling howl of the hungry wolves that lurk in the pages at the beginning of the book.
When I was younger I particularly liked the characters. I loved Bonnie’s haughtiness and courage; she’s rich and spoilt but deep down has a big heart. Sylvia is more timid and lacks Bonnie’s easy confidence, but her kindness and loyalty to her dear cousin make her such a lovable character. Best of all, the two girls are fiercely determined throughout, with a friendship that never wavers.
There are more books in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, most of which I have read. I’ll be reviewing them over the next few months because once I start reading them, I find it hard to stop!