Be My Wolff | Penguin Random House Canada

Be My Wolff

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Widely heralded for her bestselling first novel (Feed My Dear Dogs) and award-winning stories (Sister Crazy, also nominated for the Orange Prize), Emma Richler finally returns with a dazzling major novel with the power of A.S. Byatt's Possession, the wit and wonder of Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda and Kate Atkinson's Life After Life--about a sister and her adopted brother with a one-of-a-kind connection: a profoundly moving, original love story about the unbreakable ties that bind, and the choices we make or create for ourselves.

Zachariah and Rachel are brother and sister. Well, not exactly. They are star-crossed lovers. Well, not exactly. Rachel is the cherished daughter of a Russian family living in London--the richly imagined, mysterious Wolffs; Zach is her parents' adopted son who arrived from the orphanage with one sweater, a head of curls and a dexterous set of fists. As children, they became as close as two people can be. But when they crossed a forbidden line, there was no going back. Now, as an adult, coping with their father's furious rebuttal of Zach, Rachel sets herself the task of inventing a family history for her beloved. And so she brings to life his imagined ancestry--from a tavern-educated boxer in Dickensian times, to a Hussar at the Battle of Borodino during the Napoleonic Wars--even as their troubles in present-day Camden Town build to yet another point of no return. Cartwheeling through history, filled with art and science, fairy tales and folk songs, tsars and foundlings, epic battles in the prize ring and on the Eastern Front, and characters that take over our hearts, Be My Wolff is riveting--wondrous, funny and tragic and of astonishing imagination and beauty.

From the Hardcover edition.


“Marry me, Rachel.”
“Not yet.”
“Tomorrow, Rachel. Marry me.”
“Maybe tomorrow.”
“There is no common blood between us. Say it,” pleads Zachariah.
“There is no common blood between us,” murmurs Rachel.
“I am not your...
Read More


“As a member of one of Canada’s most famous literary families, Emma comes by her talent honestly. . . . Rife with Dickensian overtones, the moving novel spans centuries.” —HELLO! Canada

“It’s impossible not to feel the romance of the place while reading Richler’s ambitious new novel . . . [A] feat of pure invention . . . [L]ayers upon layers of characters, folktales and history to sift through. . . . [T]he tapestry Richler weaves is so vivid and full of detail.” —Leah McLaren, The Walrus

“Richler is adept at layering tension and history to create moods and mindsets for her characters. Zach and Rachel’s complex, intense love for each other is the nucleus of the book, and fascinatingly rendered. Their affection is fierce and childlike in its single-mindedness, the kind of feedback loop of pure protectiveness and wonder that’s characteristic of young siblings and teenaged lovers alike. . . . In its best moments, the novel feels like an inventive examination of family, history and memory.” —Emma Healey, National Post

Be My Wolff is a captivating story, rich with European history, intercontinental travel, boxing trivia, sparkling conversation, Slavic folklore, wolf pack patterns and Russian fairy tales. A strikingly unique outing.” —Toronto Star

Be My Wolff represents a writer fully coming into her own . . . Richler has come up with a structure that allows her access to all kinds of narrative voices and historical and contemporary byways . . . all within the greater framework of a tender and affecting love story.” —Montreal Gazette

“Emma Richler’s first novel in twelve years, Be My Wolff, cannot be read casually. . . . If you skim through, you will not give this tantalizing tale the justice it deserves. The detail is the novel. . . . Love—a common theme in fiction—is described in a heart-wrenchingly honest way. Richler doesn’t hold anything back. . . . The word Richler uses to describe the process of creating the novel is the same feeling you will experience reading it—‘intense.’ A few words with the author is all you need to see exactly how this book was made; it could only come to exist in such a complex and creative mind.” —Blair Mlotek, Canadian Jewish News

“Erudite, sexy, richly textured and packed with delights. Like Salinger’s Glass family or Wes Anderson’s Tenenbaums, the Wolff siblings seem to crash in on the terrestrial world from some more eccentric orbit.” —Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire 

“[J]ewel-like bits of fable and fact are interwoven with modern-day conversations and the couple’s thoughts. . . . This is heavyweight, challenging fare from Canadian/British novelist Richler, difficult to categorize and even more difficult to shake off. . . . [S]killed literary navigators will appreciate the challenge.” —Library Journal