Couldn't get into this one, alas, not helped by the numerous text errors - lots of the kind of spelling mistakes that don't get picked up by spellchecker, not to mention formatting errors. Very disappointing from a publisher like Tor!
Kij Johnson's "The Fox Woman" is a powerfully emotional story where through the entries of three simple diaries we are provided with a small window into the characters vast lives and those events within that encompass them all.
This story revolves squarely around three characters: Kitsune the desperate young female fox, Kaya no Yoshifuji the depressed nobleman, and Shikujo his seemingly perfect wife who has her own dark secrets. Much goes on within the body of text but it is Kitsune who ultimately starts and finishes everything here - challenging the natural/man-made order to discover her true self and where her heart really belongs.
Kitsune is fascinated by humans and before long falls hopelessly in love with the lord of the nearby estate, Yoshifuji. To this end she resolves to do anything to win him; though comes to realise this is an impossible goal for a fox, she despairs until her mysterious Grandfather teaches how to use magic to take on the form of a beautiful woman. Kitsune starts out as a simple animal with simple survival needs, however as the plot progresses she fanaticizes being with her love and thus her character evolves into something far more complex, one that cries when sad, burns for affection and companionship; an animal with a soul.
With the help of her family she fashions a world within this fox-magic, a perfect one in eternal autumn filled with self aware servants, one which she intends to keep Yoshifuji in forever, as her husband; though this reality is essentially an illusion that one that must accept in order to be 'captivated' by it. Within her own magic she attempts to learn and understand human customs, reading and writing, namely poetry. But keeping this dream together proves to be more difficult than the little fox wife ever imagined. You'll feel deep sympathy for Kitsune as she struggles with her identity, so afraid she will lose everything; many forces threaten to destroy her creation, she works tirelessly to maintain it lest should the magic fail and Yoshifuji realise the place he came to call home is a dirty stinking fox's den, and his perfect wife and in-laws, the foxes. Disaster, pain and loss are inevitable.
Throughout the fox woman's diary entries her continuing transfiguration leaves the reader wondering what exactly she is, as Kitsune caught between two worlds is no longer fox or woman, as she rightfully surmises herself when asked: "Neither. Both. I am myself."
I cannot spoil the ending, also thanks to the unique storytelling it doesn't 'end' but again, we were merely given a window into their lives so the possibility of a sequel is happily left wide open. The novel's "conclusion" itself is nonetheless beautiful for painful lessons had to be learned showing just how far all three have developed making the possibility of their finding happiness in the near-future undeniably assured; there's always hope. Kitsune's undying devotion to her husband is something to admire.
This story was impressive and beautifully written; I'd strongly recommend this book to those who enjoy fantasy, especially ones oriented round Japanese mythology & folklore. While it possesses many elements from philosophy, religious beliefs to the natural world and Japanese culture, the Fox Woman is purely a love story, one that Kij Johnson describes every moment of passion and embrace in excruciating detail so be warned: it is for intended for mature readers, maintain an open-mind and you will not be disappointed.
This must be one of the most unusual books I have ever read! I was attracted by the title and cover, as I adore Foxes.
I never look at the back pages of a book before I read it like some, and so it came as a surprise to me, after finishing the book and reading the 'Author's Note' that this story is in fact based upon an old Japanese Fairytale.
It is extremely ambiguous as to whether it is real or fantasy: (from the perspective of the main characters of course) Is the Fox dreaming - the man - or indeed both, as Fox becomes 'woman' - and man becomes 'Fox'... It's an interesting concept about 'escapism' and fantasy - you won't find anything quite like it! The translation is good, the quality of the edition too and with an attractive cover - all you could want!
This is a re-telling of a Japanese fairy tale, about a fox who falls in love with a man and creates a magic world. The fox - as woman - and the man marry, have a child, and then... but we don't want to give away the ending. Although the author allows us a wonderful insight into the feelings of the fox and her family - both as fox and as human - I couldn't help wishing that there was more, somehow. Page after page, I would think "okay now something is going to HAPPEN," but the author would interrupt the building tension with a slow interlude from another part of the story. Maybe it's just the cultural necessities of telling a refined ninth century Japanese myth, but I wanted more emotional depth and not so much refinement. But I will certainly never look at a fox in the same way again.