The Valley of the Moon
When the name Jack London is thrown around it is usually by a high school literature class pertaining to his most famous work of fiction, the Call of the Wild, but never in reference to the Valley of the Moon (VM). VM is one of Jack London's rarest books, so rare that most readers today have never heard of it. Thanks to the competition between Amazon and other companies over customers interested in e-books and e-readers books like VM once relegated to the dust bins of history are being rediscovered for free. Amazon and other companies are reissuing older books for free that cannot be or are not copy right protected any longer by one exclusive publishing company, to help lure in customers. VM is a book that Amazon offers for free, making it accessible to new generations of readers the world over. VM was originally written for Cosmopolitan Magazine in installments nearly one hundred years ago. VM is about the complexities of love and life for a working class couple in California at the dawn of the twentieth century. The love that the main characters share is so profound that it pushes them out of the working class slums of Oakland in search of their own piece of paradise dubbed the Valley of the Moon. Like most of London's works of fiction VM is an adventure story, with rich, bold characters that depicts true life down to the very language they speak.
The first striking aspect that a reader will encounter in VM is its language structure and content. In order for Jack London to give clout and realism to his characters and ultimately his book he uses the dialect and language that is truest to those characters he is writing about. In VM London is writing an adventurous love story about working class characters and thusly uses the crass, offensive and uneducated dialect and language used most often amongst the working class themselves at the time he wrote this story. Racism, sexism, xenophobia and vulgarity are commonly found in VM, not to promote oppressive ideology but to create characters that are more vibrant and true to life. Jack London's best quality as a writer is his ability to bring to the reader a description of life that is most accurate and to do so he understood that language is one of the most important ways of doing that in both structure and content.
The strong characters are the second thing readers will come across in reading VM. Jack London is known for making the characters in his stories strong and proud and the characters in VM follow London's normal writing habits as it pertains to characterization. London is also known to incorporate himself into the characters, which is the reason his characters tend to be proud and strong. Jack never one to be fond of sitting around was always adventuring throughout the world, which helped him have the experiences necessary to create rich characters that come across believable to his readers. Billy Roberts "Big Bill" one of the main characters in VM is a caricature of Jack London. Big Bill was a strong, sure footed prizefighter, whom remained calm except under the influence of alcohol, and who was completely devoted to his family. Even in the female lead we find traces of Jack. Saxon Roberts is strong in spirit and devotion that uses her mind to conquer situations instead of brawn like her husband. Saxon and Billy complement one another because they are both representations of Jack London. It is their union that gives the characters Saxon and Billy strength, each relies on the other for help at one point or another in VM whether in the working class slums of Oakland or as they tramp across the beautiful California country and sea sides, they need each other to survive.
The last important feature of VM is the adventure story itself. All of Jack London's books are adventure stories but this one is unique because it is a multi-layered adventure story. The physical escapades of Saxon and Billy as they struggle to survive in the wildness of the city and as they tramp the gentle rural areas of California are just the superficial adventures that Jack writes about. These physical adventures are necessary because they entertain the reader as well as develop the main characters. The second more elusive adventure story is the mental one that rages on between husband and wife and life and death. The mental adventure is the one most subjective to interpretation by the reader and not always necessary in a book. Books that have mental adventures or secondary adventures tend to create discussion between the various readers of the book and have a lasting impression. Secondary adventures or subplots are not always resolvable either, especially if an author never clarifies what he was striving to subliminally express in his writing. The dual adventures in VM work well together and it is this unity between the adventures that create a wonderfully complex story that keeps the reader flipping pages.
VM is a book considered to be dated and unimportant to today's readers by some critics, which is why its physical availability is limited but it is being given a second chance at redemption thanks to the e-reader wars of the current digital age. VM is a multi-layered adventure story about a working class couple in love, who finds strength in their union and dare to make a better life for themselves in the rural areas of California. The main characters Saxon and Billy are working class and use dialect and language that are very plebeian but necessary to create realism in VM. VM is a book full of strong characters that will entertain you with escapades and have you discussing its meaning with friends. VM is a book that should not be forgotten that was written by one of the greatest authors of American adventure, Jack London.
(The review above is from the Super Cool Facebook Readers Club, written by the Administrator of the group on 5/10/2011)