I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
Published by Open Road Media on August 4th 2015
Buy on Amazon, B&N
The bestselling nature classic that stands as a hallmark of conservation writing and forever changed the way we look at wolves In 1948, Farley Mowat landed in the far north of Manitoba, Canada, a young biologist sent to investigate the region’s dwindling population of caribou. Many people thought that the caribous’ conspicuous decline had been caused by the tundra’s most notorious predator: the wolf. Alone among the howling canine packs, Mowat expected to find the bloodthirsty beasts of popular conception. Instead, over the course of a summer spent observing the powerful animals, Mowat discovered an animal species with a remarkable capacity for loyalty, virtue, and playfulness. Praised for its humor and engrossing narrative, Never Cry Wolf describes a group of wolves whose interactions and behaviors seem strikingly similar to our own. Mowat humanizes these animals that have long been demonized, turning the widespread narrative of the “savage wolf” on its head and inspiring many governments to enact protective legislation for the North’s most mysterious creature.
I have such a complicated opinion when it comes to Never Cry Wolf. On the one hand, Mowat changed the way people looked at the the mysterious wolf and developed the understanding that wolves are more in tune with nature than our own species seems to be. Unfortunately, Mowat goes about writing his novel in the wrong way: his tone is condescending, his stories meant to be entertaining only make him sound incapable and his constant complaining about his superiors “refusing” to help him do his job make him look rather pathetic. Regardless, Mowat’s book is one of the first books to really capture a sliver of the social, predatory and familial behaviours of the enigmatic wolf and thus deserves some level of respect.
Never Cry Wolf is an easy read filled with what appear to be anecdotal tales of a man’s experience living near a wolf den while on a government contract to study the “vicious beasts” that are wolves. Mowat explains to the reader how the initial understanding of the wolf was shaped by the political climate of the time rather than fact. He also links the violence that man enacted on the Caribou whose dwindling numbers were blamed on the insatiable wolf to this political struggle. He then provides stories and experiences as evidence of a kinder, gentler wolf with keen intelligence and anthropomorphic behaviours.
Upon some research it seems that Never Cry Wolf is a semi-ficiton which was written based on Mowat’s experiences while studying various species in the Canadian arctic as a civil servant. I’m uncertain if this makes the book any more palatable for me considering the effects it had on the media image of the wolf. If anything it makes me concerned that people are naive enough to believe anything they read before doing some research or critical thinking.
Did I find it humourous? Definitely not. Do I think this belongs in education? Perhaps. The novel has value in educating people about the poor critical thinking skills our society fosters and it is a decent tale to dispose of bad image issues wolves seem to still inherit today. Was I entertained? Yes. I feel Never Cry Wolf is a fictional novel that change the way people looked at wolves and highlighted the errors in political thought during its years of publication. I think its an important book to read, but I also don’t know if I would leap to the conclusion “classic”.
This book will appeal to nature and animal lovers, conservationists, students and people who enjoy a good story with a flair of the dramatic. Although not a classic novel, there is wealth in reading this novel at least once in a lifetime.