Books: Pet Project Keeps the Wolff from the Door; Animals Play a Big Part in Isabel Wolff's Novels -in Her Latest, Behaving Badly , the Main Character Is an Animal Behaviourist. but One of Her Favourite Characters Was Inspired by a Brummie Stray, as Caroline Foulkes Finds Out

The Birmingham Post (England), September 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Books: Pet Project Keeps the Wolff from the Door; Animals Play a Big Part in Isabel Wolff's Novels -in Her Latest, Behaving Badly , the Main Character Is an Animal Behaviourist. but One of Her Favourite Characters Was Inspired by a Brummie Stray, as Caroline Foulkes Finds Out


Byline: Caroline Foulkes

A s a youngster living in Rugby, Isabel Wolff used to find the prospect of going shopping in Birmingham rather exciting.

She never knew quite what she'd find there, or what she'd go home with.

But perhaps the most exciting thing she ever took home didn't come wrapped in a plastic bag. It didn't cost her a penny either. And she could be sure no-one else would have anything quite like it.

A dog.

'We came to town one day and were walking through a subway when this lovely, jumbly mongrel just attached itself to me. We took him home and tried to find his owner, because even though we wanted to keep we were worried that some old lady was missing him.

'Luckily for us, no one ever came forward. We called him Ben.'

Ben later provided the inspiration for Graham, a 'rather stylish mongrel' who appeared in Isabel's third novel, Out of the Blue. 'I love putting animals in my books,' she says. 'I think they are a touchstone for human feelings in that they are often substitute children -children who have never existed or children who have left home. 'Animals humanise people.'

Her latest book, Behaving Badly, features enough animals to fill the ark. It tells the story of animal behaviourist Miranda, who gets on fine with pets but has problems with men.

Yet beneath this seemingly lightweight synopsis is a much darker side of the story.

'Miranda has a very fragile conscience,' says Isabel.

'She's concerned about something she did 16 years ago when she was involved with an animal rights group, and how she can put it right. It's not a fluffy farce, it's a moral dilemma.'

Although Behaving Badly is her fourth book, Isabel never dreamed she would end up being a novelist.

After university she trained as an actress and for a while worked for Thin Ice Theatre at the Triangle in Aston. But she decided that acting wasn't for her.

In 1986, she joined the BBC as a secretary. Despite knowing nothing about journalism, her boss encouraged her to go into radio.

'I learned how to make programmes and I just fell in love with it all. My acting came in useful because it meant I wasn't afraid to be in front of the microphone. …

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Books: Pet Project Keeps the Wolff from the Door; Animals Play a Big Part in Isabel Wolff's Novels -in Her Latest, Behaving Badly , the Main Character Is an Animal Behaviourist. but One of Her Favourite Characters Was Inspired by a Brummie Stray, as Caroline Foulkes Finds Out
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