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Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up here >>

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Tricia Delaney

Initially I found it very difficult to really get into this story, as so much of the initial stages of the book are devoted to the terrain and the landscape and 'setting the scene', making the 'surroundings' of the story almost its main character. However, once I had got passed that initial stage and the story really started to take shape, I found it very enjoyable and the kind of book you didn't want to put down until you had finished it. The insight into conditions and the influence of the 'secrets of the mountain' took the story along very effectively leaving the reader wondering who or what had actually been responsible for all the 'happenings' that had taken place.

Haven’t read this author before but would certainly read her again.

Lyn Sutter

The brief summary in the inside jacket was intriguing and I looked forward to reading the book. I like a book which grips me and I cannot put down, unfortunately this was not that book!

Douglas Hutchinson

Wolf Winter is not a book I would normally have chosen myself. I enjoyed reading it and could not wait to find out the ending. As the end drew nearer it became a page turning read.

It has historical details, atmosphere and suspense. The author’s description of winter and the cold is so expressive you could imagine being there yourself. The novel captures the feel of a frigid land, the howling of the wind and the sting of the snow blowing on your face is vivid and richly atmospheric. The story comes alive in the use of the historical details. The author’s description of using pine bows as impromptu snowshoes or the panic during a blizzard of shovelling snow away so that the door can be opened, both feel urgent and real. Her description of the enveloping dark and the terrible hunger as stores diminishing during winter makes you feel that you are there with the characters.

As the answer to the mystery comes closer it became a page turning read to get the answer.

Judith Campbell

A novel set in 1717: a few scattered families scraping an existence in the shadow of a mountain in Swedish Lapland...

Have I put you off? Well, think again. Get a cup of tea, settle yourself down amidst your well-furnished and well provided life and make the leap, confident that Cecila Ekback will quickly draw you into her evocative and totally engrossing tale.

We experience events through three characters, all newcomers to a life dominated by the mysterious mountain, the enormous power of winter in the dark north and the secrets of those already living there. Maija is a woman of great determination, left to survive her first terrible winter caring for her two daughters while her husband returns to their home in Finland to earn money – or simply to escape? Frederika, her elder daughter, is reaching adolescence and the terrifying growing awareness of her strange spiritual powers. And the priest, exiled from the Swedish Court, struggles to know how best to deal with the demands of his unwelcome new, complex role. The novel gains much of its power through Ekback's use of this man, woman and child's experiences in their efforts to survive and understand the challenges of nature and their fellow man.

I will never look at the threat of a snowstorm in quite the same way, and the novel will certainly add layers to my enjoyment of next year's 'Viking Homelands' cruise.

Sandra Herring

Wolf Winter draws you into the bleak surroundings of 18th Century Lapland. The harsh reality of this landscape is described in such detail that the reader is totally absorbed by this unputdownable story. The conflict between Church and Mythical legends threads through the whole tale as the main characters try to unravel the seemingly mysterious deaths and disappearances. All is revealed by the end but with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. A thoroughly good read.

Michael Nicholson

It has been a very long time since I have been so gripped by a book.

This is a murder mystery set in Swedish Lapland. Dark and foreboding; a story of survival, human failings and strengths and eerie magic from times past.

Cecilia Ekback described a "wolf winter" so well that for the first time I really understood the fear of a particularly hard and long winter. The story will remain with the reader long after it has been passed onto a friend.

This should be on everyone's reading list for 2015.

Jenny Kemp

Wolf Winter is not the kind of book that I would normally select, however once I started to read it I found it difficult to put down.

The descriptions of the mountains and the winter conditions were amazing and I felt I was really there enduring the winter with them.

A fascinating story woven with intrigue but as I had to read it quickly I sometimes lost as to what was happening but I will read it again.

The characters of the priest, Maija and Frederika, were very believable and the appalling conditions they survived were amazing.

The ending was a complete surprise and it is definitely worth reading if you like dark and eerie tales full of suspense.

Carmel Long

Wolf Winter, meaning the harshest winter in living memory, is set in northern Sweden/Lapland in 1717. A family move from Lapland to a settlement in the lea of Blackasen Mountain which casts its brooding presence throughout the story. It is soon evident that the mountain, forest and marsh have a profound influence on this community but this point becomes very repetitive.

The narrative is told through the eyes of 3 main characters but there are others who have their storyline running through the novel. Maija, the mother, is an outspoken "doesn't know her place" woman. When her daughter, Frederika, finds a body in the forest Maija realises he was killed by human hands and keeps asking questions. The body is that of Eriksson,a man who discovers people's secrets and this is connected to his death. Frederika has visions of Eriksson talking to her but rather too many visions adding little to the story.

The church exerts a strong influence over the people and Olaus "the priest" finds himself in this small isolated community. He does try to take an interest in the discovery of the body questioning the late priest's wife, the verger who is also the schoolmaster and trawling through parish records but has little success. The reason for this unravels at the end of the story. Who killed Eriksson and why is finally explained in the last few chapters which also draw the histories of the other characters to a conclusion.

An overlong book with a very slow storyline. The author says she will not be writing a sequel but would I read it if she did - probably not.

Pauline Cornwall

This book takes you to some bleak and dark landscapes, so well written you could see it all, it held my attention all the way through. It was hard to guess the outcome and I thought the three characters were very cleverly written and I couldn't wait to read the next page.

It was a very hard and uninspired life the Scandinavians led and this reader can't imagine how they survived, the folklore surrounding their existence made it hard to keep to their traditions and the church involvement must have proved hard to adhere to.

I look forward to Cecillia Ekbacks next book.

Pat Meloy

I hope this will be of some help to you! "Wolf Winter" is not my usual choice of reading (I prefer crime, WWII, Katie Fforde, etc.) Cecilia Ekback is very descriptive in her writing, showing the hard times endured by many - little food, bitterly cold winters although there is beauty in the surrounding land), poor homesteads, a lonely existence and also, in small communities in particular, how the seed of doubt spreads. I found that I had to keep returning to the map to get my bearings in order to check where the other settlers lived in relation to Maija and her family. It was good to read the story being told by Maija (who was an inquisitive person and perhaps spoke before thinking things through first of all in her quest to find out the truth!), Frederika and the priest. If the author should ever write a sequel, I wonder how their lives would pan out? To this day, there are people who are "fey" and it really brings home that, at the end of the day, we are on our own.

When Cecilia Ekback writes her next book, I shall certainly read it.

Lesley Marshall

I found this book demanded a lot of its reader’s imagination. We are taken to the frozen north of Sweden in the early 18th century, an unknown setting to most readers, but are fed relatively sparse details of the characters’ everyday lives and, hence, the context of the story. Whilst this contributes to the overall feeling of uncertainty; how to distinguish fact from fiction, reality from imagination, that is the main theme of the book, it does affect the reader’s ability to empathise with the characters and feel a part of each of their stories. The result is that the human beings in this story are really bit part players: the stars of the show are the spirits. A more vivid background would, I feel, have given them equal billing and enhanced an enjoyable, well written and unusual story.

Marie Jones

Here is an intriguing, challenging novel which defies classification. Is it a history, a mystery, a family saga, the stuff of myth and legend? The challenge is to decide where exactly to place it. The author rejects the historical novel tag. She wrote the book four times, the first effort placed it in 2005 as a family saga. This was reset in 1930, then in 1865 and finally ‘the book found its true home in 1717.’ One wonders what the changes were in the evolution of the story.

This time setting is right. The very remoteness, geographically as well as in time, allows for the willing suspension of disbelief as events sweep the reader along. The sense of isolation is a vital part of the atmosphere. Nature plays its part as a family cope with the elements in winter despite the absence of the father. The strengths of the mother and her elder daughter contribute to the conflict as the twists and turns of the narrative lead to the eventual resolution.

This is a dark book, not for everyone, but a thoughtful, worthwhile read.

Rosemary Griggs

I found it intriguing and compelling reading from the start. The book takes you straight into the harsh survival conditions in countries of the north shores of the Baltic Sea. Changing one country for another does not make their struggle against the elements and the social order any easier. In fact more mystifying, as mother and daughter use their physical and spiritual powers to discover the awful truth that led to the murder of their neighbour.

It is a tale of supreme persistence as the search for truth develops, and the painful exposures are uncovered.

Diane Ball

I enjoyed this book and it is well written. Set in Swedish Lapland, it centres on a small group of settlers and their struggle to survive in a harsh land.

In June 1717 the daughters of a newly arrived family find the mutilated body of a dead man. Their mother, Maija, doesn't believe that a wolf killed him. She is a strong woman with an enquiring mind and has many questions over the following months as she tries to find out the truth - about this death and other strange events, past and future.

Also Maija's eldest daughter, Frederica, feels the mountain spirits trying to help her find answers and help keep her family safe.

As the extremely harsh winter sets in - the Wolf Winter of the title - all the secrets of the characters are gradually revealed. In time the threads are all satisfactorily resolved.

This book is an easy holiday read. I learnt a little about Lapland culture and beliefs, which added interest to the story.

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