Book: Mr. Fox – Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Description from Amazon:
Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don’t get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can’t stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It’s not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold differently.
Mary challenges Mr. Fox to join her in stories of their own devising; and in different times and places, the two of them seek each other, find each other, thwart each other, and try to stay together, even when the roles they inhabit seem to forbid it. Their adventures twist the fairy tale into nine variations, exploding and teasing conventions of genre and romance, and each iteration explores the fears that come with accepting a lifelong bond. Meanwhile, Daphne becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair, and finds her way into Mary and Mr. Fox’s game. And so Mr. Fox is offered a choice: Will it be a life with the girl of his dreams, or a life with an all-too-real woman who delights him more than he cares to admit?
This was an…interesting book. It’s not the type of book I would normally read, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.
The book almost reads like a writing experiment; one where you take the main characters and change everything about them, background, situation, even location in space and time, and see where the story takes you. Mary and St. John became all manner of people, from a very realistic nanny & writer pair all the way down to an actual fox and his lady love. It was a very interesting thing to watch, a writer reinterpreting her own characters over and over; almost like watching the writing process itself.
I can see where some people might not like this one. It DOES jump around quite a bit, without really any transitions, so I could see it being very confusing for some readers. But I actually enjoyed that. It shook things up a bit; gave me the sensation that I was reading a bunch of short stories rather than one long book. Granted, not all of the stories had an ending…or even a beginning, but it was still fun.
And it did still contain an overarching plot to keep everything tied together. All the stories tied back in some (if vague) fashion to the overall plot, in which St. John and his wife are haunted by the Muse that just wants to live; an interesting plot in itself.
I also want to applaud the writing style. The author has a natural way of writing; the words just seem to flow off the page, making even the most peculiar of tales seem realistic. I could have read a hundred more versions of St. John & Mary and never gotten bored. It makes me very eager to pick up another of her works.
Overall, I highly recommend this one. Not just to people who like short stories, but really to everyone who enjoys fiction.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Cavino, William Weaver (translator)