This post has been kindly written by blogger Sarah Chapman, who also happens to be part of the amazing Mslexia team. Sarah’s blog The Bibliomouse is always a joy to read and I love her frank and witty reviews. She was an obvious choice to include in this series. Here she talks about her pick for 2012, Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.
When Lizzi asked me to write about my favourite book of 2012, I blithely agreed, forgetting both how indecisive I am and how many fantastic books I’ve read this year. From the multi-layered and atmospheric Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann to the tightly plotted and downright tricksy Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, from the magical The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey to the tense Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne and the brilliantly-realised Tom All Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd, there have been some fabulous books out this year. However, there is one which I haven’t been able to get out of my head since reading it and which I had to choose as the best of 2012 – Tell the Wolves I’m Home.
Set in the mid-1980s, Carol Rifka Brunt’s novel is a hauntingly gorgeous debut. When June’s uncle and best friend, the renowned but reclusive painter Finn Weiss, dies of a mysterious disease, she is devastated. In the early days of AIDS awareness, the stigma attached to it means that no-one will talk to June about Finn, and she cannot reveal why she is as upset as she is. When Finn’s partner Toby gets in touch with her and explains that he misses Finn as much as she does, she is prepared to hate him for occupying part of Finn’s heart that she had thought was all hers. As they get to know each other, she and Toby realise that Finn has been more cunning that they gave him credit for.
What makes the novel so fabulous is the quality of the writing. There are paragraphs that I had to read several times because the writing is so gorgeous, and June’s narrative voice is pitch-perfect. Insecure, baffled by her sister’s distance and somewhat isolated from her schoolmates, she thinks that she has hidden her greatest shame, her love for Finn, from everyone, not realising how obvious it was to those who mattered. She is self-aware enough to admit that there are less than altruistic motives to some of her actions, but at other times her naïvety is immensely touching. She is brave and imperfect and is my favourite ‘heroine’ since Cassandra Mortmain.
This book is about so much more than I have written but I wanted to hold things back so people will discover it properly for themselves. It’s a beautiful, hopeful and assured novel and I tear up every time I think about it. In a good way.
Tell The Wolves I’m Home was published by Pan Macmillan in June 2012.