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Friday, April 26, 2013

Random out of place book review

No, really.

A while back I wrote a couple of articles for an online magazine that seems to have shut shop in a rather dramatic manner. (See! Whatay.) I'm going to put those articles here because clearly I'm a hoarder and life will fall to pieces without proper categorisation. 
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Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox


Picture a stack of Russian dolls; each doll being of a different colour, each having a different countenance, each enveloping a drastically different smaller doll. One with a face so angelic that you want to caress it gently, the next with blood-stained fangs bared, ready to pounce and rip out your soul. That is Mr. Fox.

Mr. Fox is mystical and magical and is a handful of utter confusion. It revolves around an author named St. John Fox, his wife Daphne and the woman he loves, his closest friend, his muse, a figment of his imagination, Mary Foxe. What begins as a narrative between St. John and Mary, in which she berates him for conveniently murdering all the female characters in his books, quickly turns into a furious challenge in which they weave each other into stories they make up; some poignant, some gruesome, all entirely touching and fascinating. As this game progresses, St. John and Mary grow closer and closer, and Daphne begins to suspect her husband is having an affair.

The novel has a rather sparse main plotline. The bulk of the book is made up of the fantastical stories that the characters create for and around each other. It’s hard to always tell who the narrator is of the one you’re reading and what possible implication it could have on the main plot, but it makes you want to figure it out. What slowly develops is a tangled web in which you realize you don’t fully know what is real and what isn’t. Your grasp on the thread of the story may seem tenuous as times, as it darts dizzyingly between fantasy and reality. Could Mary actually be real? How much does Daphne know? Could it be possible at all that the main characters are just losing their minds?

Though the book raises more questions than it provides answers for, you realise you don’t actually care. As each short story laid out by your trio of fictional narrators envelops you, you are drawn into their twisted world teeming with wonder, intrigue and chaos. The initial short stories are quick and light and are satisfying on their own, but as the book progresses, the stories get deeper, more intricate, more complicated. You’re disoriented at times. You actively, desperately hunt out the significance they could have on the main plot of the novel.

Mr. Fox could be construed as a quirky take on violence against women, it could be an innovative rehashing of Bluebeard and various folk tales, it could just be a tale of a great love that could never possibly be. You could choose to see this novel as a whole and take it to your heart or if you prefer, you could ignore the main plot and view it as a series of unconnected whimsical and compelling short stories. Either way, if you like books that make you think, if you don’t mind sifting through a little confusion to get to some beautiful nuggets of prose, give this book a read.

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