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White Fang and Call of the Wild – Jack London

Back in May, I was feeling sad so I walked along the Southbank to London Bridge to go home, via the Southbank book market. As well as a copy of Love in a Cold Climate (which I no longer have), I bought a copy of White Fang and Call of the Wild. I used to have the Children’s Classics edition of White Fang as a child, one of a big set which, sadly, disappeared.

It was one of my favourite books, and re-reading it recently was very soothing, though also much more harrowing than I remembered – either some of it went over my head, or I was more accepting of it because I had nothing to compare it to. These books, along with Black Beauty, taught me a lot about cruelty and fair treatment of working animals. White Fang also – along with, a little later, Northern Lights – instilled a fascination with the far north, with the frightening nothingness, the intense darkness, the extreme cold, even though I had never been anywhere like that.

However, I was sad to notice the racism in the books – which was subtle enough that, as a child, I did not notice it at all, to the extent that I was shocked to see references to “half-breeds” and how white men were superior to Native Americans. I read this article about Jack London, about his revolutionary socialism and his violent racism, including the quote “I am first of all a white man, and only then a socialist.”. I then went on to read this, and learnt about his difficult start in life, including being kicked out of a school for doing too well, as well as his influence on other writers. But while he was undoubtedly a very interesting man, his racism is deeply upsetting and chilling, and I find it difficult to love the books quite so much as I did before.

Other categories that White Fang/The Call of the Wild fits into: a book that became a movie, a book with non-human characters, a book set in a different country, a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, a book from your childhood, a book with a colour in the title

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9 thoughts on “Book challenge #35: A book more than 100 years old

  1. I remember White Fang from the school library, but never read it or any other Jack London. That Independent article is really interesting; how odd what people get remembered for.

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