The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Classic #2)

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Classic #2)

Shelved: Classic (fantasy and adventure)
Published: 1962 by Jonathan Cape
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #2
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my second post for the 2015 Classics Challenge! I picked The Wolves of Willoughby Chase because I was looking for a wintry classic to curl up with this February. It’s not too late to join me (and 150+ other people) in reading one classic per month!

Can you go a little faster? Can you run?

Long ago, at a time in history that never happened, England was overrun with wolves. But as Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia discover, real danger often lies closer to home. Their new governess, Miss Slighcarp, doesn’t seem at all nice. She shuts Bonnie in a cupboard, fires the faithful servants and sends the cousins far away from Willoughby Chase to a place they will never be found. Can Bonnie and Sylvia outwit the wicked Miss Slighcarp and her network of criminals, forgers and snitches?

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I actually don’t think I had heard of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase until I discovered the Vintage Children’s Classics, my favourite series of children’s classics – I just love the design and the selection of well-known and lesser-known classics! I bought I Capture the Castle in 2012 followed by The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Dark is Rising, Fly Away Home and Charlotte Sometimes in 2013.

WHY I Chose to Read It
It was freezing in February and I was looking for a wintry classic to read as part of the challenge. It had been sitting on my TBR for a while and I hadn’t picked up a Vintage Children’s Classic for a while, even though I own quite a few now. It’s also meant to be adapted as a BBC drama this Christmas, but I have not heard any more about it since it was first announced in 2013. I really hope it goes ahead!

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s a classic children’s adventure story, full of beautiful descriptions of the landscape, treacherous characters and a thrilling mystery to solve. It has a bunch of characters – from Bonnie and Sylvia themselves to the adult servants that aid their mission – that you’ll be rooting for all the way. A debate arises now and again about how dark children’s and young adult literature has become, but you only have to meet Miss Slighcarp and her allies to realise it has always been that way – they’re truly ghastly! Although The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is over 50 years old, its themes of friendship, class, gender, and the tendency of adults to underestimate children still resonate today.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I adored it instantly! I was fascinated by the idea of an alternative Britain where wolves may attack at any time. I expected the story to be more about the wolves, but it’s actually about how the wolves aren’t the real enemy here. It’s wonderfully written and I loved the vivid descriptions of Willoughby Chase, from the stark white landscape to Bonnie’s delightful toy room. It has secret passages, charming characters (like Simon the gooseboy) and a story that doesn’t patronise children. It has everything you could want. I’m looking forward to reading Black Hearts at Battersea, the next book.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I think so! It still feels fresh and exciting. I hope the forthcoming BBC drama does the book justice and encourages more people to read this wonderful story. And once you’ve done that, there’s 11 more books in the series for you to read.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love children’s books and want to delve into the world of classics. People who love children’s adventure and mystery stories, like the Laura Marlin mysteries. People who love how atmospheric Gothic literature can be, like Jane Eyre.

Have you signed up to the 2015 Classics Challenge?

15 thoughts on “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Classic #2)

  1. Yay, so glad you loved it! As good as this is, the series gets even better – with Black Hearts introducing the AMAZING Dido Twite!

  2. […] The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken ★★★★★ • Goodreads • Buy […]

  3. I REALLY want to read this. You basically locked in my love for it pre-purchase/pre-read. Time to hunt around…

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. I have a copy on my shelves as well to read that I hope to read with my boys soon 🙂

  5. There’s a film of The Wolves of Willoughby chase that I used to LOVE when I was little although it did used to scare me a little, so I’d recommend watching that 🙂 I haven’t yet read the book but I really want to, its been on my Amazon wish list for ages. I think I’ll be joining the classics challenge over on my blog!


    • I’ve heard of it but I’ve also seen some reviews saying it’s nothing like the book, so I wasn’t sure whether to watch it!

      Thanks for joining the 2015 Classics Challenge 🙂

  6. As I am curious, I have picked it up at the library (hopefully, we still have it !!). I hope to have some time to read it.
    Is “Black Hearts at Battersea” the next book (vol.2) ?

  7. Just this moment finished it and was lead here from the Goodreads page. I remember watching the film when I was a kid and enjoying it, but only decided to give the book a go recently. So glad I did. I’m not sure Joan Aiken had 30-year-old men in mind as an intended audience when she wrote it, but it doesn’t matter, good writing and story are always enjoyable! I’m going to be hunting out the rest in the series now!

  8. I just finished The Wolves of Willoughby Chase tonight. I loved it too. The wolf stuff at the start is great, so threatening, and then it moves to a somewhat Dickensian/Secret Garden adventure story. I just found your blog tonight looking around about TWOWC, it’s great.

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