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Kazan by James Oliver Curwood
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Kazan (1914)

by James Oliver Curwood

Series: Kazan (1)

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Kazan is one of those books from the early 20th century that works well as a youth or adult read: there are elements of cruelty, violence, and brief descriptions of a small pox plague and its effects on the inhabitants of northern Canada, but nothing overly graphic. The author, better known for his work The Grizzly King which was made into a popular movie The Bear, displays his literary ability as well as his first-hand knowledge of the subject matter, having lived in the time and places he writes about. Curwood composes better than Jack London, and with less of the societal commentary that drags the telling of the latter author's works such as White Fang. And Curwood was an early advocate for conservation and limiting the unfettered slaughter of animals of his time, and it shows in his writings without being preachy.

This was one of my favorite books of my childhood, and it remains a favorite read some 45 years later. ( )
  fuzzi | Apr 24, 2018 |
James Oliver Curwood was an American action adventure writer and at the time of his death in 1927, it is claimed he was the highest paid author per word in the world. There are 55 editions of Kazan which was published in 1914 and many of his books have been made into films. Hardly any reviews on Librarything and so I presume he is little read today. He was a game hunter turned conservationist and many of his novels are based in the wilds of North West Canada and Alaska and it would appear that Kazan is a typical example.

Kazan is three parts husky and one part wolf and the novel follows his adventures after an escape from his servitude as a sledge dog, where he suffered some cruel beatings. His strength and intelligence soon make him a fearsome leader of a wolf pack and his adventures in the wild and his confrontations with frontiersmen make up the substance of the story. Kazan is ambivalent about domestication because he had been kindly treated by women and does respond to kindness: we know all this because Kazan is anthropomorphised by Curwood and we see the world through his eyes. It would seem that Curwood knew the landscape, wildlife and had the knowledge of a naturalist and so his novel has an authentic sounding setting, however what he didn’t know of course was how an animal like Kazan would think and feel and so its success depends very much on how accurate the reader thinks he might be. This is not a fable or a fantasy it is an adventure story set in a wild and rugged landscape and Curwood convinces with his depiction of the savagery of both the animals and some of the humans, but as to the “finer” feelings of Kazan and his wolf mate then it is more a matter of conjecture.

This is a quick, entertaining read and I particularly liked the chapter about the colonisation of the wolf-dogs territory by the beavers, because Curwood is at his best when describing the natural world. I suppose this is a book that would be described today as a YA novel and I am sure that I would have enjoyed this when I was thirteen. This might be pretty good of it’s kind and so three stars. ( )
3 vote baswood | Apr 17, 2016 |
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Kazan, three-quarters dog and one-quarter wolf, searches for companionship while struggling to survive the harsh Canadian wilderness.

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