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  • Writer's pictureLiza Stirlinglass

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

To be honest if this book hadn't been selected as the October read by the book club I go to, I am not sure I would have picked it up. But I am so glad that I did. Set in a brothel in Pompeii the author cleverly draws us into deeply caring about the lives of her characters in a world of depravity, greed, loss, and survival.

Perhaps the secret to the power of the Wolf Den is the authenticity of the voices of the slave women who have been bought and made to serve their master as prostitutes. The voices of each of these women telling their own story about where they came from, how they ended up there are compelling and moving. The voice of Victoria who loves the master despite his mistreatment I especially loved the voices of Cressida and of Amara, who is determined to thrive and gain her freedom however she can.

Harper paints three dimensional characters as she weaves her words and tells us about the back story to each of the characters in the Wolf Den. The agony of the older slave who serves the young girls who has watched her son grow up there, the tormented Paris and Brittania a red haired warrior slave brought to Pompeii from Britain.

Whilst the setting is historical the issues she describes mirror the reality of our own existence today. The plight of women and girls who are trafficked, the rule of order that is dictated by money and power and the injustices of birth.

This is Harper's debut novel and the first of a trilogy. It is well researched and the descriptions of that city, the food, the atmosphere and sounds come to life throughout the story. My only disappointment was the use of modern language references. I think using different phrasing for the insults and abuse that are heaped on the girls would add to the authenticity of the book and the characters whose lives we are engaged with.

The Wolf Den is available at Waterstones , at other bookstores and on Amazon.

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