The Wilding – Maria McCann

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 Long listed for 2010 Orange Prize

Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

The Wilding is an atmospheric piece of historical fiction set in 17th century England. The book follows Jonathan Dymond, a young man who makes a living from helping neighbouring villagers to make cider. He leads a simple, happy life until one day his world is shattered by a mysterious note from his dying uncle. It suggests that secrets are hidden within the family and so Jonathan decides to investigate. Everyone is keen to guard their own secrets, but the truth is slowly revealed as the characters battle to claim the inheritance.

The Wilding was quick and easy to read, but the writing gave the book a period atmosphere that you don’t normally find in books this readable.

The book was well researched and I especially loved the details of the cider pressing. 

I loved the heady stink of fermentation – ‘apples and a little rot’, as the cottagers said – and the bright brown sweat that dripped from the murk  even before the screw was turned, the generous spirit of the apple that made the best cider of all. The villagers said ‘Good cider cures anything,’ and I agreed.

The mystery compelled me to read on, but when I finally discovered the twist I was quite disappointed. It wasn’t that I had already guessed the outcome, more that I found I didn’t really care about it. It wasn’t particularly clever and it gave an unfulfilling ending.

It also made me realise that I didn’t care about the characters. The more I analysed the book the more disappointed I became. I had been so distracted by the fast-paced plot that I hadn’t noticed that all the characters lacked depth.

Despite my criticisms I think this book will have wide appeal. Fans of The Thirteenth Tale or The Little Stranger will probably love it. It was an entertaining read, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about it in 6 months time.

Opinion is divided on this one:

It’s an utter mystery to me why this book has been longlisted for the Orange Prize. Vulpes Libres

 This isn’t a book for learning about the period so much as a book for those who want to live it themselves. The Worm Hole

…a plot that is made rather dull by the flat main character who delivers the story. Book Gazing


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24 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    Your review and others aren’t making me feel as though I need to rush out and read this one! What you say about not being able to connect with the characters was the clincher for me – that is my key thing when reading any book and if it isn’t there then the read is always disappointing for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, It is the same for me. I need to have a deep connection to the characters to really love a book. This one was entertaining, but could never be more than that without more complex charaters – they were all so flat :-(

  2. Beth F says:

    Well I liked the 13th Tale, so I should probably give it a shot. I like the time period too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it :-)

  3. Helen says:

    I’m reading this at the moment and so far I think my opinion is going to be the same as yours. The story is entertaining enough but I’m finding it difficult to care about the characters. I just haven’t connected with Jonathan at all. I’m not quite halfway through the book yet though, so I’m hoping it will get better.

    1. Jackie says:

      Helen, I’m afraid that it probably goes downhill towards the end. I’m sure you’ll continue to find it entertaining enough, but Jonathan is a bit of cardboard wimp and that only gets worse at the book progresses. I look forward to seeing your thoughts on it :-)

  4. Sandy says:

    Your description of the book leaves me feeling ambivalent about reading this, but I DID love The Thirteenth Tale and The Little Stranger so maybe I need to re-think. I guess I can forgive a weakish twist as long as the journey is enjoyable.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I thought The Thirteenth Tale was very clever, but The Little Stranger was a bit disappointing. I enjoyed reading both, but like this book they aren’t favourites. If you really enjoyed both then this one is probably for you too.

  5. FleurFisher says:

    I was of the school of thought that thought the narrative viewpoint was wrong too. Which was a shame, because if the story was told from a different angle, with multiple narrators even, I think you might have seen into hearts and mind much more and then the book would have really sung.

    1. Jackie says:

      FleurFisher, Ooh, multiple narrators. Such a good idea! I would have loved to see parts of this book from Tamar’s point-of-view or even the aunt. You are right that would have made this book shine :-)

  6. Amy says:

    I did like The Thirteenth Tale but I’m not sure about this one. It sounds interesting but not all that great.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, It is the kind of book that you need to read when you don’t want to tax your brain too much. It was nice to read it just for entertainment.

  7. TERESA says:

    I have this one on Mount TBR and I think I’ll enjoy it….still waiting on Dianne Setterfield to produce a new book so I’ll have to make do with “similar” in the meantime!

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I’m looking forward to reading Diane Setterfield’s new book. I hope she publishes one soon :-)

  8. Hmm, I really disliked The Thirteenth Tale and really liked The Little Stranger (although it wasn’t a favourite). I thought I would enjoy this book though so I think I will still give it a go.

    1. Jackie says:

      The Book Whisperer,
      I’ll be interested to see what you make of this one then :-) Enjoy!

  9. Charlie says:

    I hadn’t read any reviews before I reading, so it’s interesting to hear such a differing view to my own! I can see why you didn’t like it, and it would’ve been better perhaps to have a different narrator, because Jonathan wasn’t the best of the characters.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, I did enjoy reading it, but it won’t get onto my list of favourites. It is interesting to see that even though you loved the book you can still see that a different narrator might have improved it.

  10. Iris says:

    Hm.. The 17th century historical fiction mention made me perk up and want to read this book instantly, I’m not so sure though seeing your reaction to the plot twist and the part quoted from Jodie’s review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, I think that Jodie and I had a similar reaction to this one. If you enjoy books set in the 17th century then I’m sure you’ll find a lot to like in this book, but it isn’t perfect :-)

  11. Erin says:

    I added this one to my list after reading Charlie’s thoughts over on The Worm Hole. I definitely think I’d enjoy it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Erin, I hope that you enjoy it – I look forward to reading your thoughts :-)

  12. Jenners says:

    Oh too bad. I hate when a twist doesn’t live up to my expectations. It brings the whole book down.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, It is such a shame as I did enjoy reading the first 3/4 of the book, :-(

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