Tag Archives: Wolf Country

Six Degrees of Separation – From Wolfe Island to The Satanic Verses

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: each month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six others to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the titles on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Cover images

This month we’re starting with Lucy Treolar’s Wolfe Island which I haven’t read but I gather from the blurb is about a woman whose life lived alone on the eponymous island is disrupted by the arrival of her granddaughter together with two refugees fleeing persecution.

I’m taking a phonetic leap, losing the ‘e’ and landing in Tünde Farrand’s Wolf Country, a dystopian tale set in a world in the grips of rampant consumerism. All too plausible.

Wolf Country’s jacket bears a startling resemblance to Francine Toon’s Pine, a slice of modern Scottish gothic that I’m keen to read.

Toon is an editor turned novelist as was William Maxwell, author of So Long, See You Tomorrow, one of my favourite novels, about a friendship between two boys which turns sour

Picking up the theme of male friendship, which seems much rarer that the female variety in fiction, A. D. Miller’s The Faithful Couple is about two men whose twenty-year friendship is overshadowed by a dubious moral act committed in college.

Staying with authors who eschew their full name in favour of initials leads me to Water Music, my favourite novel by T. C. Boyle. Based on Mungo Park’s compulsive quest to find the source of the Niger, it’s packed with extraordinary characters who never seem to have a dull moment.

On the front of its current jacket, Salman Rushdie exhorts readers of Water Music to ‘gulp it down, it beats getting drunk’ which leads me to Rushdie’s notorious The Satanic Verses, the publication of which had all sorts of repercussions that neither its author nor publisher could ever have imagined.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a woman living alone on remote island to a hugely controversial novel which led to its author living in an undisclosed location surrounded by armed guards. Part of the fun of this meme is comparing the very different routes other bloggers take from each month’s starting point. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #6Degrees, check out the links over at Kate’s blog or perhaps even join in.

Wolf Country by Tünde Farrand: All too plausible

Cover imageI rarely read dystopian fiction, mostly because the current state of the world feels grim enough to me, but Tünde Farrand’s Wolf Country comes from Eye Books, the same company who published the impressive An Isolated Incident, which persuaded me to give it a try. Set in 2050, Farrand’s novel explores a world gripped by rampant consumerism through the story of a woman desperate to save her husband from the fate that awaits all who can no longer pay their way.

Philip disappears on Boxing Day, the day the palatial new shopping centre he designed was to open in a televised ceremony. Instead, the complex goes up in smoke, the target of anti-capitalist activists. Alice and Philip are Mid Spenders earning their Right to Reside by meeting their monthly spending targets, often buying things they neither need nor want. Philip’s father is a dissident who lives in the Zone, a wild area outside the city where wolves are reputed to roam. The Zone is where the destitute are sent, those unable to earn their place in the Dignitoriums where the ‘non-profits’ are promised a year of bliss before they meet their painless end, or so Alice believes. At the top of this new world order are the unimaginably rich, one of whom Alice’s estranged sister Sofia has married, while at the bottom are the Low Earners who barely scrape by. As she sinks further into depression, Alice knows she’s heading for the bottom, or worse, and when it happens she decides to appeal to Sofia for help. Her path to her sister will open her eyes to the cruelty and deception of the system she had once thought benign.

Farrande unfolds her story from Alice’s perspective, weaving memories of her childhood and her life with Philip through her quest to find out what has happened to him and her decision to ask Sofia for help. Alice’s small epiphanies along the way effectively lay bare the truth behind the glossy facades of the Dignitoriums. There are uncomfortable resonances with our own  times: the constant consumption of ephemeral stuff, institutionalised in the new world; slick marketing promising much but delivering little, or worse; the consequences of an ageing population and contempt for those who struggle to pay their way. It’s an all too plausible story, well told, but its ending let it down for me. Maybe our own contemporary troubles are making me cynical.