The Call of the Wild by Jack London
On re-reading The Call of the Wild, I was struck by how powerful and evocative Jack London’s prose is. At times, I could almost hear the freezing wind whistling by the window: a chill, as if snow was on the way, crept over me.
Reading this at 12 years old, I remember not taking much note of the author’s writing style, and was only interested in the exciting and gruelling tribulations of a most astounding dog. Set in the late 1890s along the West Coast of the US – and north, into Canada and Alaska, the story follows Buck, a formidable dog living a comfortable, domesticated life on the property of a Californian judge. His misadventure begins when he is stolen and sold into a kind of slavery, to become a sled dog for various masters during the Klondike gold rush. He is passed harshly from hand to hand, some cruel and ignorant and hateful, some fair and relatively kind, and one particular salt-of-the-earth type person you’ll wish there were more of.
This book is about a dog; it’s also about nature, and instinct, and survival. It’s exciting, short enough for limited attention spans, and beautifully written for readers who want a bit of a challenge. I’d recommend this for ages 12 and up, but do note that it is quite violent in parts.
George Munn is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.