TRSBC Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (Canongate)

The last werewolf

As this is the first book on the list I should be praising its brilliance and saying ego inflating things about it but that’s not my style. In fact, I’ve struggled with it, which is what a book club book should make you do I think?

Where is the struggle? Well a literary author has delved into genre and by his own admission only has the foundations of the genre to build from (think Dracula). Though Duncan is a big horror film fan (think American Werewolf in London) so it doesn’t veer that far away from what you’d recognise as werewolves and vampires.

But it feels like a literary novel as it’s told in diary entries (again think Dracula) as Jacob Marlowe discovers that he is the last werewolf on Earth. And that WOCOP (think Team Van Helsing) plans to kill him on the next full moon. And its focus is on Jacob as he goes from not caring that he’s the last werewolf and he’s about to be killed to really wanting to live.

It’s an exploration of what it’s like to live for 200 years and kill people once a month rather than a battle for survival though Duncan does chuck in plenty to keep the plot moving along. And that’s the struggle as it does feel on occasions that things happen just to move the plot along and seem disconnected from the struggle that is going on inside Marlowe. Though he isn’t struggling with his inner beast as he’s come to accept it and accept that he is something ’other’.

And this is where it gets interesting again as Marlowe as a narrator is very graphic in his language and descriptions. Not only do you get a good slice of gore but it’s sexually graphic and animalistic with the type of focus and description that you don’t get in a typical genre novel. And it certainly raised this reader’s eyebrows. So it might make for uncomfortable reading for some and you might want to be choosy about whom you recommend it to.

Without giving too much away the fact we find out that he isn’t the last and that love is the one thing that is worth living for does feel a very literary device. The genre fan in me wanted to explore more of his history and what Marlowe has done with his life. Having time seems to equate to being able to get hold of money in vast quantities. Being fair he was an aristocrat when he was human so breeding could have helped. As will the need for survival.

But because he’s relating his own tale this aspect just felt too easy to come by and too convenient but I am looking at it as someone who has read plenty of genre novels that pay attention to world-building.

Ultimately what this is a good barrier novel that will introduce literary readers (its prime audience) to genre ideas, moved on from Dracula-esque school reading, but not much and conversely for ardent genre readers they get a chance to experience a werewolf tale at a deeper level than they are used to.

The Summer Book Club is happening on the The Readers, a podcast that I co-host with Simon from the blog Savidge Reads, right now and the plan is to review each of the eight books we’ve selected. If you want to here an interview with the author, hear Simon and I discussing each book and hear what others thought please head over to the blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *