Fiction’s ‘wild’ protagonists

Every now and then, it’s good to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – or paws, fins, and claws! When you’re in a reading rut, or if you’re just looking for a book that’s new and different, there’s something to be said for stories told from an animal’s perspective. Seeing the world from a non-human point of view can make for a supremely exciting, riveting read.

The following list includes several works of fiction featuring narrators and protagonists from the animal kingdom. A mix of new and old, well-known and fresh-on-the-scene, all are an engaging change of pace from the human perspective:

The Bees by Laline Paull – Meet Flora 717, a member of the lowest caste in the beehive. Through various feats of bravery she rises through the ranks and becomes a forager, responsible for seeking nectar to sustain her kin. However, there are dangers both within and without the hive, and Flora is faced with challenges that change her life as she knows it.

Watership Down by Richard Adams – Facing the intrusion of mankind and the destruction of their home, a band of rabbits undertakes a journey to a new, safer place to live. They face terrific dangers along the way in this classic tale that’s both timeless and gripping.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – This touching story is told by Enzo, a lab-terrier mix. His master, a race car driver, is in a difficult battle with his in-laws for custody of his daughter, and Enzo watches the humans in their struggles with philosophical, highly evolved observation.

Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London – “Call of the Wild” follows Buck, a domestic St. Bernard/Scottish Shepherd mix who is abandoned in the Yukon wilderness and must learn to survive. “White Fang” features its namesake, a wolf/dog hybrid, as he navigates the wilderness and slowly makes peace with human civilization.

Flush by Virginia Woolf – An imaginative blend of fiction and nonfiction told through the eyes of Flush, a cocker spaniel owned by the Victorian-era poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This book is part biography, part critique of unnatural life in the city, and part pure fancy and imagination.

Grendel by John Gardner – More than just a re-telling of the classic “Beowulf”, this short novel features the monster Grendel and tells of his life in Denmark in the early centuries AD. Written in 1971, it blends Old English diction with the modern, making it much more readable than the original.

(Flickr photo by Catunes, available via a Creative Commons license.)

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