Wolf by Gillian Cross

Cassy is a young girl, not quite in her teens, who lives with her grandmother, whom she calls Nan. Of her father, she knows nothing, and Nan is determined to keep it that way. Cassy’s mother is less shrouded in mystery; she’s an odd woman, who behaves like a giggling kid most of the time, and spends her life moving from squat to squat – unfit to take care of her own daughter. On one particular morning, long before dawn, a visitor knocks the door of Nan’s flat. Before Cassy can even see who it is, Nan has put him in the spare room and ushered Cassy out of the house with a bag full of rations and instructions to go and stay with her mother for a spell. It’s all seems a bit unusual to Cassy, but what can she do except obey?

And so the novel gets off the ground staight away with a fairly interesting mystery. Cassy soon finds her mother, and a large portion of the rest of the story is devoted to developing the characters she meets at her mum’s squat: Lyall, an old man who visits schools to give talks on wolves, and his loyal son, Robert, who is Cassy’s age.

The problem I had with this novel is that nothing much happens until around page 100. That approach might sit comfortably in a typical mammoth Stephen King tome, but in a novel that’s a mere 140 pages, it just doesn’t work. I got bored. To be fair, the mystery deepens slightly with the discovery of a strange yellow substance at the bottom of the bag Cassy’s grandmother packed, but any sense of danger is held back until the story’s almost finished. Who’s the mysterious visitor? just isn’t a strong enough premise to carry a novel.

The whole way through, I kept wondering what wolves had to do with the plot, apart from Lyall being obsessed with them and causing Cassy to have nightmares. Very much incidental stuff, compared with the main thrust of the story – which was what, exactly? Hmm. The wolf theme does tie into something which happens at the end of the novel, but I’m sad to report that the constant emphasis on wolves throughout the novel seemed contrived to me.

I remember a sound piece of advice given to me about writing: Don’t go easy on your main character. There has to be conflict and danger and peril. Wolf has these … confined to the closing chapters. Oh, and did I mention that this novel won the Carnegie Medal? Go figure.

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11 thoughts on “Wolf by Gillian Cross

  1. JJ says:

    pretty good helped with my homework 🙂

  2. Darryl Sloan says:

    Glad to have helped. 🙂

  3. Rara says:

    Every man casse encounters has some form of wolf resemblens.

  4. unni says:

    i am reading this book at the moment.
    i think it is good so far….

  5. Poppy says:

    Is anyone else not bothered, or slightly worried, by the whole not understanding what wolves have to do with the plot… It’s based on little red riding hood! Go figure.

  6. Nami says:

    Right! I must admit that you reassured me telling this book is absolutely boring, and that was (too ^^) very helpful for my book report as i can’t waist no more time reading… I just couldn’t carry on reading… NOTHING HAPPENS AND I DON’T ANDERSTAND ANYTHING!!! Thanks!

  7. Nimme says:

    Well I need more informaton to do my homework hahaha

  8. Anden120 says:

    I had to read the book because im going to write a review about it now, pretty hard, think your text will help me 😀 I’m from Sweden and finishing the ninth grade and this book was pretty hard for me 🙂 Many hard words, I nearly red the whole dictionary xD

  9. brijbee says:

    “Wolf” confused me. The whole time I felt it was implying that Rick (or some other characters) was a werewolf. So, when it turned out to be otherwise, many questions were unanswered.

    1. Why did Rick stare at wolves in the zoo? (I know he likes wolves, but seriously, who does that for hours on end? It’s creepy.)
    2. Was it Rick that keeps coming to Nan’s house, (and Cassy always goes to see Goldie) and why?
    3. What is “The Wolf”? Is it a werewolf or what?
    4. Why is Cassy so annoying?
    5. Why was this book awarded the Carnegie Medal? (Actually, I don’t think anyone can answer that.)
    6. What’s with the last page?
    7. Why doesn’t Nan want to speak to Cassy when she calls her? That makes me think that she transitioning into a werewolf. Imagine a werewolf granny!
    8. Why is Lyall’s business so annoyingly called “Moongazer”? It made me suspicious that Lyall is a werewolf.
    9. “Like a wolf marking its own territory.” Did Rick piss on a house or something? (Which makes me paranoid that he secretly is a werewolf.)
    10. Why does Cassy dream about Little Red Riding Hood?
    11. Winter aconites?

    I have SO many more questions, but I think I would fill the page at this stage. (That rhymes!)

    • Agenttheatre55 says:

      Spoiler alerts for those who haven’t read the book.
      Not Rick, Mick. They told us why he stares a them – they’re like him, they’re defends their territory. If you want a better explanation, go onto the Internet and look up the IRA. Also look up Semtex. The last page shows that Casey has always wanted, and still wants, to know about her father. Nan can’t speak to her because Mick has a gun and is stopping her from talking to her unless she says anything, he can’t trust her now that she’s smuggled the Semtex out of the house. That’s why he keeps coming to Goldies hous, to figure a way in to get it back.We’re supposed to think that Lyall is the wolf, the villain, in the story but he was sn’t – even though he could be a metaphor for what people think of wolves and what they really are, he’s wild and unpredictable but he’s gentle and cari and actually isn’t a threat. The Wolf is a powerful animal, strong and resourceful and frightening of you threaten it or invad it’s territory. But in our minds, thanks to the stories about Wolves, they become more like monsters. Hope that helps

  10. Hi says:

    If you think about it, it is an appropriation of red ridding hood! Nan = mum
    Mum = granny, basket of food = red riding hoods basket, etc, etc. duh

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