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Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children Paperback – 17 Feb 2003

4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (17 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571214606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571214600
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 379,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Stories of abandoned children and those children supposedly raised by animals have long fascinated us, as the legend of Romulus and Remus makes clear. More recent stories also capture the imagination. The Wild Boy of Aveyron, caught running naked in woods in provincial France in 1800, has been the subject of biography and fiction and the attempt by the physician Jean Itard to educate the boy formed the basis for a memorable film by Truffaut. The appearance of Kaspar Hauser in the streets of early 19th-century Nuremberg, after a mysterious 16-year imprisonment in a dark and tiny cellar, evoked fantastic tales of a lost prince and rightful heir cruelly shut away. He too was the subject of a film--a visionary and visually inventive masterpiece by the German director Werner Herzog. Michael Newton's Savage Girls and Wild Boys: a History of Feral Children tells these stories and many more like them--wolf-children in 1920s India, a Russian boy living on the streets of Moscow and scavenging with a pack of wild dogs, a boy brought up by monkeys in Uganda. Much more than just a frisson-inducing account of the weird and the bizarre, Savage Girls and Wild Boys is an ambitious exploration of what these stories (and our fascination with them) tell us about the shifting boundary between nature and civilisation.--Nick Rennison --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'The stories Newton has to tell are spellbinding.' Mail on Sunday 'A collection of six, extraordinary individual histories, beautifully navigated.' Evening Standard

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I bought this book because of a long-standing interest in the Kaspar Hauser case. Not only did I learn much that was new about Hauser but I was able to set his case in the context of a long history of 'feral' children before and since. Newton's book manages to avoid sensationalising his subject-matter, but his objectivity and breadth of contextualisation provide the reader with more than enough material to bring these stories alive. All this would be worthy enough, but what lifts the entire volume is the last case, that of Genie, kept in appalling conditions in a suburb of Los Angeles by her own overbearing father. Her life had been awful enough, but her subsequent treatment by self-seeking carers and an unfeeling bureaucracy shows how our attitudes to the rescue and re-education of these misfit kids have scarcely changed over the centuries. I finished this book better-informed about the subject and about humanity as a whole.
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't know what to expect from this book, but soon found myself absolutely gripped by each of the stories. They often work with the fluency of fiction, while obviously being based on well-researched documentary accounts.
This is a book that stays with you - that even subtly changes how you think about the world.
This book isn't a potboiler, or a psychiatric treatise - it's a powerfull account of what we feel about childhood, solitude, savagery, passion and our connection to nature.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderfully evocative and moving book about wild children. Newton not only delineates each of their histories with care and compassion but by doing so brings out a whole plethora of ideas and reflections about those who suffer from deprivation and lose part of themselves.
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Format: Hardcover
When 13 year-old `Genie' was rescued in 1970 from the single room in which she had spent her whole life, she had never spoken, nor been spoken to. Her case sparked an immediate storm of interest from both the media, and from scientific researchers. It was seen as an unique opportunity to test theories that there is a crucial developmental period for learning language, beyond which it cannot be done. Some of these researchers saw her too as a child in need of love and care; others saw those who thought this way as insufficiently objective to conduct proper studies. The result was a miserable period of time in which she was shunted and pulled from person to person, from care-home to research-lab to foster-family. Her story is utterly compelling, but we have to ask ourselves, why?

After a slightly rambling, butterfly-brained introduction, Newton settles to his most crucial questions: How is it that we can recognise another human being as human? What essential quality unites us all? This book is not exactly, despite the subtitle, a history of feral children. Instead, it is a study of four or five cases in particular, and as much as it studies the children themselves found wandering wild in the woods, or living among dogs, it studies our attitudes towards them. Are they pitiful primitives in need of civilisation, or noble savages from whom we should all learn? This latter idea, popularised first by Rousseau, and later through figures like Tarzan and Mowgli, tends to be a minority view, albeit a dominant literary one. More often, confronted with the reality of a drooling, hunched figure without language or any apparent ability to relate to others, it is the former attitude that predominates.
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Format: Paperback
Michael's Newton's book gives remarkably fresh insights into the cases of feral children, such as Genie whose story is well known to linguists. Moreover he uses a clever and beguiling cross disciplinary viewpoint that enables him to guide the reader through the true significance of these poignant stories. This is a brilliant and unique work, important in that it shows the great merit to be found at looking at cases using a wide lens, rather than the often tediously narrow scope of some academic writers. Newton's book will haunt you, but it will also educate and enlighten you.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written, moving account of 'feral' children - children who have, for one reason or another, been left to fend for themselves in the wild. Many of them, like modern-day Romuluses and Remuses, were discovered and cared for by animals. What is so good about the book is that the author does not simply tell these often terrible stories, but ponders the meanings that they hold for us now. Just as for the enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century, wild children offered a challenge to received ideas of civilisation, for Michael Newton, these stories of innocence lost and found offer rich insights into what it means to be human. This is a book that has to be read.
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Format: Paperback
If you're as fascinated by this subject as I am for all that it can tell us about human development, as well as for the human interest and pathos of the individual stories then you'll be sadly disappointed by this book. The author leaves no stone unturned in attempting to locate every possible literary quotation on the subject, and he seems keener to dwell on the life stories of Swift and other literary luminaries than on the children concerned. The first section particularly is an exercise in literary padding to fill out an historical outline which is meagre to say the least. With all his attempts to put the way these children were seen in the context of their times we lose sight of the children themselves and of what their particular problems might tell us about humanity. We also cease to appreciate them as individuals when they are used merely as a mirror for their times. I would recommend 'Genie: A Scientific Tragedy' as a much better attempt at exploring this area. It not only focuses on the particular case of Genie but also covers historic wild children with greater sensitivity and insight.
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