May 14, 2012
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Buck is a family pet in California when he is kidnapped and sold into the gold rush up North because he is a strong large dog. He quickly learns that this is a harsh new world, and that it must be treated differently from the tame life he is used to. He becomes part of a sled dog team and struggles to learn the ins and outs of sledding life, including dealing with the other pack dogs. Each new master brings additional lessons and Buck can feel himself growing wilder and wilder, getting closer to his roots as an animal that was not bred in captivity.
Buck is a very inspiring dog, and very real-seeming as well. Since his plight is that of what hundreds of dogs had in real life during the gold rush, it's easy to see how his story has an element of truth in it. I also like how we almost get to see his emotions directly through the telling of this story because you can see the way his thoughts and actions changed and how he adapted. And you really can empathize with him, even though he's a dog. The different people in the book were interesting too, although it's Buck's beloved owner John Thornton that truly steals my heart with his treatment of Buck. The chapters with him in it are some of my favorites. That's not saying the other characters didn't have their place, but he was one that stood out.
Since this is based on a real time in history, I think it does a remarkable job of showing the lesser known aspects of that history. We all know about the Gold Rush, for instance, but few of us knew that regular dogs were being shipped up there to be sled dogs. It never even occurred to me that there were dogs other than huskies doing the work. I also thought that the book was perfectly paced. Since it's technically a kid's book it's shorter than most books, but it's done in such a great way that you become so involved in the book and lose track of time. However, one thing to note considering that this is a kid's book is that there is a great deal of violence and graphic description of fights, killings, etc. For those sensitive hearts that love animals and can't handle one in pain, this isn't a book that should probably be read.
I absolutely love the book and think it should be one of those books that everyone reads at least once in their lifetime. A true classic and one I'm proud to have on the bookshelf at home.
The Call of the Wild
Copyright 1963 (the edition I read anyway)