I decided to read Helen Oyeyemi’s 2011 release, Mr. Fox, after recently enjoying her newest book, Boy, Snow, Bird. I had never heard of Oyeyemi before, mostly because I wasn’t involved in any reading communities that could have pointed me in her direction. What I have found, is that this author writes in such a way that I am completely taken in. I just plain love the way she uses language.
I do have to admit, that I did not think I was following very well for the first half of the book. I went in blind (big mistake in this case), and I hadn’t read the book synopsis, nor Bluebeard, the fairy tale on which it is loosely based. I recommend you do both before starting, it would have helped me. I did not understand what the point of the book was until I was well on my way. Even now, I am not completely sure. But I do know I enjoyed it.
Mr. Fox is (mostly) a story about a writer, St John; his wife, Daphne; and his lady muse Mary. St John writes primarily about killing women in his stories, namely Mary. Daphne is obsessed with Mary, suspecting her husband is having an affair. Mary is this cool soul that never gets ruffled… except maybe all alone in the dead of night.
The book reads like a collection of short stories that are connected to one other, but don’t completely follow each other. Each chapter comes from a different character’s perspective at a different point in time. There are even some chapters with completely different players (perhaps stories written by Mary?) that you only follow during their short part.
Two thoughts entered my brain over and over as I made my way through this completely original and interesting book. I actually would venture to say I might feel these when reading any novel by this author:
1. how marvellous is the way she uses just the strangest objects or ideas to paint the clearest most obvious pictures.
“The windows stood wide open, and a cold wind flowed in and made the torn pages of my books whisper.”
“His voice in my ear. It did interesting things to me. It curved my back and parted my lips. I felt lazy and feline, and he wasn’t even in the room.”
‘“Well.. there’d better be a market for magic carpets. ‘cause from tonight, mine’s for sale.”’
“And, laughing a little, he kissed me back. He kisses me like ice cream, like a jazz waltz, the rough, gentle way the sea washed sand off my skin on the hottest day of the year.”
2. how her punchlines make me laugh out loud constantly.
“There were seeds in the cake, and it smelt of rum. I hoped the birds wouldn’t get too drunk. “ followed later with: “‘Next time just don’t feed the birds with cake thats been experimentally laced with pharmaceuticals.’”
“at that time I had to keep meeting people and meeting people in case one of them was someone I could marry.”
‘“Stay back.” I picked up St. John’s stapler. It was a big stapler, about the size of a human head. If I had to, I’d staple her head.”
“Please, God. You know I don’t seek worldly things (apart from shoes).”
‘“People clap at anything. Some people even clap when they’re on an airplane and it lands.”’
There are many more awesomely funny and quirky quotes to be had, so you will have to read the whole book to find your favourites.
Mr. Fox has sealed the deal for me. Ms. Oyeyemi’s books are now on my must-read list. I am looking forward to finding out what she comes up with next. Soon please!!