Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jack London "The Call of the Wild"

What a surprise package this book turned out to be.  I absolutely loved it.  The Call of the Wild is about Buck, a large domesticated dog who lives a very comfortable life in California.  A disreputable servant of his master, sells him into servitude to pay a gambling debt.  Poor Buck is taken to work as a sled dog in the Yukon territory of Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the nineteenth century.  Buck's life as a working dog is fraught with danger and hardship but he adjusts to life in the harness, in the frozen wilderness, and starts to experience yearnings to be free in the wild as his ancestors once were.

I was completely captivated by Buck and his experiences from the first page to the last.  Jack London takes us inside Buck and his metamorphosis from domesticated dog to wild hunter.  The action sequences in the novel (and there are many) are brilliantly told.  It is really edge of your seat stuff.  The language is simple, beautiful and evocative.   The fights, the ceaseless toil and the flights through the forest in pursuit of prey, are incredible.  I can see all of it as I write this now.  Jack London's writing is magic; you don't even notice the writing.  The reader is effortlessly transported to the frozen north and can hear every gnashing of teeth and cracking of the whip.  The writing is tight, not a word wasted.  It is so real.  Yes I haven't gone mad, this tale, told from the point of view of a dog is very real.  And not only is it real but as the reader I cared so much about this dog.  I don't even like dogs that much for goodness sake, but Buck well and truly found his way into my heart.

The novel is quite violent in parts.  The dogs are subjected to vicious cruelty by some of the humans in the story. There is also an ongoing struggle for supremacy amongst the dogs themselves.  It all works and adds to the tension, but I think children would find it all a bit much.

The themes explored in the book include loyalty, bravery and love.  In many way these themes are amplified because we see them enacted through Buck.  Then there is the "call of the wild" itself.  The idea that we carry buried deep inside, something elemental and essential from our ancestors that links us to nature, exploring new frontiers and a kill or be killed way of life.  But yes I know I am going on. I can't really explain why The Call of the Wild works so well, and why the trials of Buck moved me, except to suggest that it is a simple adventure story brilliantly told.


  1. Wow, I finished this last week and feel the same about it that you do. I hope that my review of it will be up later this week, so come and have a look if you are interested. Ill try and come back and let you know when it was posted.

    You know what else I loved about it? I could see my own dog's behaviour in the way in which London describes Buck's behaviour. You know when your dog gives you one of those looks that you can't quite decipher, and then they get up and move, I don't know, 30cm's to their left and sit back down again, and you think "what was that about?" When you get to see inside Buck's head, you get to see explanations for that sort of behaviour.

    Great book. We must have been reading it at close to the same time as each other :-)

  2. That is a wonderful coincidence! I was reading it over the last week. I will be sure to keep an eye out for your review. I agree totally, Jack London is masterful in how he takes us into the mind and heart of Buck. I have a cat (they are a different kettle of fish all together so to speak) but I must say reading Call of the Wild has renewed by perception and appreciation of all creatures canine :-)

  3. Hi Mel, I posted my review of this book this morning so I thought that I would pop by and give you the link

    It's a bit long, but recently I have been getting a bit carried away with my reviews.

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