‘Michael, Brother of Jerry’ is a novel written by Jack London. It is a sequel to one of his earlier books called ‘Jerry of the Islands’.
Michael, an Irish terrier bred in the Solomon Islands, serves as a nigger-chaser on a ship used for recruiting native labour. When his owner, Captain Kellar, accidentally forgets him on the beach, he befriends Dag Daughtry, a steward from another schooner. Along with his new master, Michael starts his journey around the world.
Michael’s life seems perfectly happy until Daughtry is diagnosed with leprosy and sent to the pest house. The dog falls into the hands of Harry Del Mar and after some time is given to Harris Collins, a well-known animal trainer.
It would be wise to read this book in conjunction with London’s novel, ‘Jerry of the Islands’, as these two stories are inseparably linked. While Jerry’s tale can easily be read as a stand-alone volume, Michael’s adventures will leave you completely baffled if you don’t reach for the other title first. However, it gets even worse here, if you pore over Jerry’s story, you will know exactly what happens to Michael at the end of his book. Complicated? Just a little bit.
Now, even though the two novels are connected in some ways, they could not be more different. ‘Jerry of the Islands’ is a wonderful description of the Solomon Islands, their people, and culture. True, its content is terribly racist, but it is still a brilliantly written, thoroughly engaging narrative. When it comes to ‘Michel, Brother of Jerry’, it’s the other way round. Unfortunately. This time Jack London failed to create a tale that readers could be fully drawn into. The book is like a roller-coaster ride: when the story ‘goes up’, you wait in excitement, not knowing what will happen next. But then the story suddenly ‘goes down’… And nothing happens. Yes, this novel is quite mundane in some parts. There are a lot of flowery descriptions – extremely vivid, I admit, – but not necessarily needed.
The most interesting – and disturbing, for that matter – are, without a doubt, the final chapters. London shifts his focus to the gruesome world of animal entertainment, unraveling all the dark secrets we aren’t fully aware of. He depicts unimaginable cruelty and sadistic actions, which – even if slightly exaggerated – are a real eye-opener. This makes the book a thought-provoking read, well worth pondering on.
And Pasifika… Where is it? Well, it’s nowhere to be found. Apart from a few mentions, the author doesn’t give the islands much attention. Sadly. Maybe this is why I find ‘Jerry of the Islands’ more engaging. Yes, this certainly might be the reason.
So, would I recommend this novel? For animal lovers – yes. For literature enthusiasts – absolutely. For those interested in the Blue Continent – not so much. The truth is, it may not be the best book, but it is still a valuable read. It’s quite educational and it definitely arouse emotions. Give it a try. It may suit your taste.