Book review, Historical fiction

Book review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Review in ten-ish words: Character driven writing at its finest. A raw, violent and captivating story of invisible women.

Synopsis

After Amara’s father died, her mother sold her. Flash forward years later and she is enslaved in a Pompeii brothel- known as the Wolf Den. She is owned by Felix- a man she despises but must depend on. With her fellow ‘she-wolves’ Amara is forced to hunt during the day, finding anyway they can to laugh and find joy. A beacon of hope is the ever present need to find a way to be free; or at the very least a way to escape and change their fortune.

Based on the famous Lupanar ruins of Pompeii, this is a story of woman who are often invisible in historical retellings. It covers themes of love, women and friendship, identity and loss of freedom.

“Either we choose to stay alive or we give up. And if it’s living we choose, then we do whatever it takes.”

My Thoughts:

I am falling more in love with greek and roman history the more I read about it. This book will appeal to those who love grit- this book is not prettied up. It does not hold back and I think that is where it’s power lies.

This was a heartbreaking read, but one of my favourites for 2021 so far.

After reading some other reviews, I saw most of the critique came from the fact this book is character driven- I don’t think is necessarily fair to frame this as a negative for any book. The character’s Harper builds in this story are deep, well fleshed out and complex. I loved every page, even if it was just Dido and Amara ‘fishing’ near the baths or hearing about the festivals.

I was here for all of the little nuances that have been added to the book. The author mentions hours spent traipsing around Pompeii as well as collaborations towards translations and historical aspects. I have learnt a lot about a side of Roman life that I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise have been exposed to.

I loved the touch of having references to texts or graffiti at the start of each chapter. The writing is extremely well done and I genuinely felt for every character- even the ones I didn’t necessarily like. I am racking my brain for something I didn’t like about this book and really, there is none. It was a great story, that was immaculately written and it made me feel a bunch of stuff all the way through.

Would 100% recommend to lovers of historical fiction.

Content warnings:

Slavery (including sex slavery), rape, physical assault, graphic language, references to abortion, suicide, murder.

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