Published by Viking Adult on March 18th 2010
A vivid, riveting novel about an abandoned boy who takes up with a pack of feral dogs
Two million children roam the streets in late twentieth-century Moscow. A four-year-old boy named Romochka, abandoned by his mother and uncle, is left to fend for himself. Curious, he follows a stray dog to its home in an abandoned church cellar on the city's outskirts. Romochka makes himself at home with Mamochka, the mother of the pack, and six other dogs as he slowly abandons his human attributes to survive two fiercely cold winters. Able to pass as either boy or dog, Romochka develops his own moral code. As the pack starts to prey on people for food with Romochka's help, he attracts the attention of local police and scientists. His future, and the pack's, will depend on his ability to remain free, but the outside world begins to close in on him as the novel reaches its gripping conclusion.
In this taut and emotionally convincing narrative, Eva Hornung explores universal themes of the human condition: the importance of home, what it means to belong to a family, the consequences of exclusion, and what our animal nature can teach us about survival.
This is one of those books that are so beautifully crafted I completely forgot that I was meant to be reading it for uni. I won’t say I loved it as that would be giving it away completely.
About a young boy in Russia who ends up being brought up by a pack of wild dogs, I was 44 pages into the book when something in the writing reminded me I was reading about a young boy and not a dog. I don’t really understand how Hornung could have managed to hoodwink me. She starts the book with the young boy in a flat and we see him join the wild dogs in the depths of winter. At some stage the boy appears to morph almost completely into a dog but with some human characteristics.
The boy, Romochka, begins to see himself more as a dog rather than a little boy. But some human things remain such as a little speech and the ability to run on his legs. I know this sounds rather unlikely but just have a look at this video and consider that this girl is real.
And once you’ve seen the video (yes, there are issues with it) you’ll notice that the voice over talks about a child being raised by animals as having no love or social contact. Dog Boy makes a mockery of this kind of thinking. There is clearly love and social contact within the pack, it’s just that this love and social contact is not human and therefore many people dismiss it as unimportant.
The last sentence is the one I found the best written and the most distressing. “He has chosen to stay.” I can’t say much as that would give spoilers. What I will say is that this last page has so much emotion, both good and bad, contained in just half a page of text. It sums up the book in its entirety. And I feel it shows the humanity that dogs can have.
Should you wish to buy this book and read it I will give you a warning before I put in a link. There are images that can cause distress whether you love dogs or not. I had tears in my eyes on several occasions and almost yelled ‘no’ a couple of times. There is also death depicted in this book. Now for the link, this will give me a few cents in affiliate fees. Only a few cents as I’ve chosen the cheapest copy for you.