Jan 28, 2009

The Wolf Children

by Charles Maclean

Of all the books about feral children supposedly raised by wolves that I've come across, this is one of the more comprehensive. Maclean did extensive research into the story of Kamala and Amala, two children found by Indian villagers in a wolf's den and rescued by an English missionary in the 1920's. The first part of his book describes the setting where the girls were found in the forest and of Singh's orphanage. The end of the book describes how the story of the wolf girls became known to the world, and what kind of fact-checking was done. The bulk of the middle is Maclean's summary of all the facts he dug up- written in a fluid, narrative style that while lacking in exact details, makes for easy reading. He brought to light many original documents and reports, and adds some historical background which gives more depth to the story. Maclean comes to his own conclusions about the veracity of the account- were Amala and Kamala really raised by wolves? Personally, I don't agree with his conclusion, but I can see how he reached it, with the limited knowledge at his disposal in the seventies. One thing that became clear to me, gleaning through his presentation of the facts, was that Singh omitted some things from his diary in order to glorify his role as the girls' rescuer, and sensationalize the story for its publicity. The Wolf Children is a fascinating account, and reading between the lines makes it even more intriguing to puzzle over.

Rating: 4/5                   324 pages, 1977

Have you written a blog review about this book? Let me know and I'll add your link here.


Nymeth said...

It's too bad about the sensationalization, but this sounds very interesting regardless.

Jeane said...

I'm not sure I was clear about that. Maclean himself did not sensationalize the story, but the quotes from Singh's diaries and other information he found to compare the diary entries to make it apparent that Singh himself sensationalized some information. You kind of have to read between the lines to gather all this, though.