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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I'm Reading: Mr Fox

Scheduling note: Until the end of the year, RA for All will be mostly featuring reviews of the books I finished this month and then my personal Best of 2011 list (which is almost finalized) sometime on 12/31 or 1/1 at the latest.

Today, I want to talk about one of the most original and interesting books I have ever read, Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

I feel like I have said this a lot about the books I have been choosing to read recently, but Mr Fox is not a traditional novel.  It is more a collection of loosely connected vignettes with characters that overlap and intersect.  In fact, I would say rather than a story, this book is more of an attempt to put the creative process into a story form.

The main characters are Mr Fox, the writer, who is famous for killing off his female protagonists.  His boring wife, Daphne, and his muse, Mary Foxe.  Now Mary is not real, she is Mr Fox's inspiration; however, these days she is becoming more fleshed out.  So much so, that Daphne is beginning to see her and getting jealous.

Mary and Mr Fox begin a game of trading dark fairy-tales.  As the process gets more heated, Mary is literally being built up and fleshing out.  She moves in and out of  the Foxes real life and imagination. This book is a great example of magical realism.

The book alternates between these stories (each of which on their own merit is excellent) and the story of what is going on between the 3 characters.  This is a story about stories; well, at least the creation of stories.  It has beautiful language, great characters, a overall darker tone, and thought provoking theme.  But, there is no hard center holding it all together.

This is a book you have to let take you on a ride.  If you want to read great interconnected stories, this book is for you.  Personally I enjoyed it in small doses.  I liked the stories Mary and Mr. Fox were writing for each other more than I enjoyed the "plot" about the conflict between the 2 characters.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is Oyeyemi's use of African storytelling themes and traditions sprinkled throughout the book.  The book is not overtly African-British, but there is an underlying vein of African influence that added to the story.

Three Words That Describe This Book: vignettes, books about book, creative process

Readalikes: Mr. Fox reminded me of many other writers and novels I have enjoyed.  So listed below are specific titles which are good readalikes.  Some I read recently, other are older.  To see why they are readalikes, simply click on the link.  Also, please note that many of the suggestions within the reviews below might also be a good readalike option.

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