Broadly, the story focuses on Anna, a twelve-year-old girl who has fled to Oxford from Greece with her father. Torn from her former life, all she has left is her father and her doll, Pin, her only friend. One evening, upon wandering into the woods, she strays from the path and sees a murder, and the tale pretty much gets stranger from that point on. On the way, we encounter myth and fairy tale-like elements, as well as a touch of Oxford class.
Paul Kearney is an established master of elaborate prose, and like many of his other works, The Wolf in the Attic is more about the journey than the actual plot. We are here to have the tale told to us in an exceptionally pretty way and be enchanted by the author’s turn of phrase. The tale itself is less relevant.
Which is a good thing, because this particular Wolf in the attic resembles a shaggy dog. We are here for the very pretty prose and the author’s love affair with Oxford. Sadly, one of the novels problems is it embrace ‘20s upper-class England a little bit too much. To put it bluntly, all the good guys are cucumber sandwich munching English fellows and the baddies are mysterious foreign devils with ways that are not like ours. Now, it could be that this a deliberate call back to a certain period in history and the tendency for 1920’s Oxford professor types to veer into unwise stereotypes, but it still leaves a sour taste.
More than a few times, you get the feeling that the author is trying to push the limits of their own experience to take the reader somewhere deeper, and yet failing. Even the main protagonist falls flat at points, and this singularly fails to tell the tale of a young girl coming of age.
The Wolf in the Attic is very pretty to read, doesn’t go anywhere interesting, wastes most of its good ideas in the first act and is, over all, a bit disappointing. We expected more from Paul Kearney and look forward to his next work. Alas, this is both self-indulgent and over ambitious and is only worth your time if you want to get sucked into a poor tale told exceptionally well.
THE WOLF IN THE ATTIC / AUTHOR: PAUL KEARNEY / PUBLISHER: SOLARIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW