Book Review: Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar

Wolfe Island…

About the Book:

Kitty Hawke, the last inhabitant of a dying island sinking into the wind-lashed Chesapeake Bay, has resigned herself to annihilation…

Until one night her granddaughter blows ashore in the midst of a storm, desperate, begging for sanctuary. For years, Kitty has kept herself to herself – with only the company of her wolfdog, Girl – unconcerned by the world outside, or perhaps avoiding its worst excesses. But blood cannot be turned away in times like these. And when trouble comes following her granddaughter, no one is more surprised than Kitty to find she will fight to save her as fiercely as her name suggests…

A richly imagined and mythic parable of home and kin that cements Lucy Treloar’s place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

My Thoughts:

‘Slice a life any way you like and it’ll tell a different story. Each cut shows something new; each might surprise or confound. Some parts you must expose with a delicate blade to keep them whole. It’s not an easy task; it takes patience. Not everyone likes to know this. You decide for yourself the things you want to know about yourself, even if not in your entirely conscious self; you choose not to peer down into the mess of it all.’

Wolfe Island is not a quick read. The novel itself is reasonably long, yes, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. It’s a story to savour and linger over; there is so much here within its pages to dwell on and reflect about within the context of the world and the changing environment that we are currently living in. The story is immersive and spans quite a long period of time from beginning through to the end. In this, it resembles a family saga, with Kitty at the helm. But along with the themes of family that drive the narrative, Wolfe Island is also a rather political novel, as well as providing a wealth of commentary on the more obvious theme of climate change that the story fundamentally orbits around.

Wolfe Island is my first taste of Lucy Treloar’s writing and what a treat this was. She writes in a way that makes you stop and think, hence the dwelling and lingering that was going on all the while that I was reading it. Many people have told me that this was a standout read for them last year, and it’s currently sitting on the ABIA 2020 literary fiction longlist. After having finally read it, I can see why. The praise is well deserved and I can now join the ranks of those who highly recommend it. I’m going to let Lucy’s own words from Wolfe Island close out this review, and I challenge you not to feel their impact as you read them.

On child birth:
‘She looked not light or loving or soft, but ferocious, like she knew things she hadn’t known before, and had been through something she didn’t know she could. No one can prepare you for it. You’ve been somewhere. Your body’s surprised you. Whatever you’ve felt before meant nothing. Nothing. This is the thing that matters. Nothing is more important; nothing explains more. You’re holding the world.’

On dogs:
‘There is something about a dog. They love freely; they do not judge or blame; they forgive. That’s a blessing every day of their lives and you pay for it when they die. It is a pure grief, and it carries all your other griefs along with it and sets them free, sweeping them up and carrying them along as fast and awful as any body of running water.’

On killing:
‘I felt hopeless now, saturated in the dreary violence of what I had made happen. I had lost something and I would never get it back.’
‘It’s not what you do, it’s why. That’s always true.’


Thanks is extended to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of Wolfe Island for review.

About the Author:

Lucy Treloar is the author of the novel Salt Creek (2015), which won the Indie Award for Best Debut, the ABIA Matt Richell Award and the Dobbie Award, and was shortlisted for prizes including the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the UK’s Walter Scott Prize. Lucy has also been a recipient of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific Region) and the 2013 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Her short fiction has been published in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure and Best Australian Stories, and her non-fiction in newspapers and magazines including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and Womankind. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT, Lucy works as a writer and editor, and plies her trades in Australia as well as Cambodia, where she lived for a number of years. In between writing, Lucy finds the time to teach creative writing at RMIT and Writers Victoria. She lives in inner Melbourne with her family.

Wolfe Island
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Released August 2019

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar

  1. What perfect quotations. I could relate to the first two, literally, but also the last, in the sense that all of us at some stage do something that cannot be undone, and then have to deal with the consequences and will reflect on it for endless years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved Wolfe Creek too, and you’ve really done it justice in this review. I think it tackles the political issues (climate change, refugees, vigilante-ism) with a light but thoughtful, and insightful, touch. And I’m still thinking about it months later – always a good sign!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Monday musings on Australian literature: Islands in Australian literature | Whispering Gums

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