Thursday, 10 January 2013


This was a meaty read for our younger group, but was one which was largely appreciated. The humour particularly appealed to them. An excellent review can be read here.

If you follow this blog you will gather that the younger group are not a discussion group, and we try and explore ideas provoked by the book we have read. For this session I wanted to open up the narrative structure, which in many respects follows an archetypal 'hero' journey, through the wannabe hero character 'Henwyn'.

I presented the group with a crime scene. The outline of a body taped to the floor, and scattered around it items to be collected and judged as evidence of the life and fate of the victim. The only certain fact was that the body was that of a hero; he carried an identity card for membership to the 'hero's club'.

The kids gathered and bagged the evidence, scrutinised each item thoroughly, then selected their own narratives for the character, based on these objects.

The Last Wolf.

I was very unsure of how the older group would react to this book when I read it. As a short story it is overwhelmingly about plot. A lot happens in a very few pages. As a result it lacks the texture of descriptive detail and character which I like in a book.

However, the groups feeling ranged so much (from 'dull' to 'brilliant') that a really good discussion was possible, and they helped me to appreciate the books qualities.

The group agreed that the story is very exciting, or at least they agreed that it had the elements of a great plot. There were however doubts about the pre-story, and whether this was necessary.

The book begins with a grandfather recovering from illness, being led to the internet by his granddaughter. Here he begins internet based research into his family history, which produces an unexpected letter from the seventeenth century, and an ancestor he knew nothing about. The letter from the past forms the narrative for the rest of the book.

The ancestors story involves many plot twists and close shaves. It touches on historical fact, but provides very little in the way of historical texture. Even the language of this letter from the past fails to do much for setting the scene.

We made comparison with  'Chains' which was another historical novel read by the group, and was beautiful and rich in descriptive detail. We concluded that the short story form, had imposed some limitations on style in Morpurgo's book. We even wondered whether the story would have been better told by the wolf? Some of the group laughed this off because Morpurgo had used that stylistic device in Warhorse, and of course the wolf only shared part of the boy's story....

I would have suggested that perhaps this book is better suited to a younger audience, but those within the group who enjoyed it demonstrate once again that this reading lark is complex, and that sometimes a good story is just a good story, without need of frills or flourishes, or a massive page count.