‘Formerly Feral’ by Julia Armfield

The bond between sisters is a strange and complex thing, explored from every possible angle in literature, and yet Armfield manages something utterly original in ‘Formerly Feral’. The protagonist is a twelve-year-old girl. When her parents divorce she remains living with her father, whilst her mother leaves and takes her older sister. Her father swiftly marries a woman who has adopted a wolf, and is raising that wolf, named Helen, as a daughter – from then on the girl and the wolf are effectively treated as sisters. 

The day they moved in, she dressed the wolf in a blue pinafore dress she described as its special occasions outfit and presented me with a copy, in my size, which my father suggested I change into before helping with the unpacking.’ I love this story for so many reasons: its sumptuous language, the hypnotic pace of Armfield’s writing; but most of all I adore the humour with which she confronts the savagery of female adolescence. There is much to be made about a creature with base instincts and desires being scrubbed with perfumed soaps and forced to blend into a world it has never asked to be a part of! (HC)

First published in Salt Slow by Julia Armfield, Picador, 2020. Available to read online at Electric Lit here

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