Oh to be able to write a debut novel as impressive as this! What a total joy – I have been banging on to anyone who will listen about this book since I finished it. I must confess I was drawn in by the gorgeous artwork on the cover, and the fact that I am slightly partial to a picture of a fox, as you can see! (If you know me from Mr B’s you will have seen I am usually found ambling about the bookshop in winter in my giant wool jumper with a rather splendid foxy fellow blazoned across the front).
In my usual style I started this book knowing very little, no idea that is was a debut and only the briefest of outlines of the story in my head. Turns out I had started something that couldn’t have been more up my street if I tried – reader, the comparison I can give you for this book? None other than my favourite Sara Baume! There are real echoes of her style of storytelling for me while still being completely fresh and captivating.
The novel centres on a thirty something woman called Mary, recently out of a potentially abusive relationship and currently very flaky in the whole turning up to work stakes, we are immediately aware this is somebody who is unravelling at the seams. Living in a semi-detached house in London with an over grown patch of wilderness at the bottom of her garden, Mary appears to be gradually cutting herself off from any possible human relations, blanching whenever her next door neighbours make contact. Those neighbours do keep forcing conversation though, as problems with foxes in the area are becoming a real issue for them. Trying to engage Mary in ways they can tackle what they appear to think of as something of a war for their home turf, she begins to try and put off any action in ways that will make her motivation unclear to the others. As we follow her into her unkempt home we soon find her reasons. A fox has been visiting her garden, leaving gifts of found objects on her door step and little by little working his way further into her affections. The perfect storm is brewing as Mary clearly begins to unravel further, the neighbours become more militant and it becomes something of an Us versus Them situation.
I love a story with an unreliable narrator and Mary is certainly that, but then that isn’t a title that falls on her head alone, as the story has the reader questioning the motives of so many along the way, beautifully so even the fox at times. The novel is incredibly readable and a moving insight into just how important having a connection, or feeling like somebody cares for us, is. The story of Mary may seem extreme at times but I think it pushes the reader to consider how close we all could be to letting things fall that bit further apart when we least expect it.
One of my most enjoyable books of the year so far, find a burrow and curl up to read.