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on 23 December 2016
Mr. Fox blends variations on the Bluebeard myth with a meditation on inspiration and intimacy explored through the character of St John Fox, a 1930s American novelist, whose imaginary muse, Mary Foxe, comes to life and starts to talk back to him. Over the course of the book she moves from being words on a page or a voice in the head to a flesh-and-blood woman with a penchant for trying on hats. She and Mr Fox engage in a battle of hearts and wits, much to the confusion of Mrs Fox – Daphne - who experiences Mary variously as her husband's insanity, her own haunting, and a conduit for liberation.

This strange Gothic threesome forms the basis for Helen Oyeyemi’s novel, anyone familiar with Oyeyemi’s work will be aware of her Cubanist, postmodern writing style (The Icarus Girl which is the perfect place to start if you are new to Oyeyemi) which explores the disturbing theme of women being murdered and dismembered by men in fairy tales, structurally it is purposefully disjointed and creates the intended feeling of dislocation as much for the reader as the characters but it's also funny, shocking, ironic, heart-warming and spine-chilling.
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on 15 October 2013
Mr Fox begins in 1938 as celebrated author St John Fox sits in his study, pondering bleakly on his latest work, when he receives an unexpected visit from his delightfully offbeat and wholly imaginary muse, Mary Foxe. Mary has a bone to pick with the villainously imaginative Mr Fox: "You kill women. You're a serial killer. Can you grasp that?" She clearly doesn't like the way his literary career has developed. She challenges him to join her in a series of stories of their own devising where the various romances that they conjure put Mr Fox through his paces and challenge his notions of love.

A happy marriage can be hard to achieve at the best of times but, with the delectable Miss Mary back on the scene, it's no wonder that Daphne Fox, St John's long-suffering wife, is more worried than usual. Concerned about her [still imaginary] rival's reappearance in her husband's life, Daphne throws herself into the storytelling ring.

The narrative of Mr Fox switches between St John's everyday life and his storytelling duel with Mary. The transition may initially be a little puzzling, but it quickly becomes apparent that chapters with titles cover Mr Fox's fantastical fictional voyages while the nameless chapters are rooted within the realm of his reality. As the stories progress, it becomes clear that St John is a slave to his imagination and that Daphne has ever reason to be worried - it seems that her husband is incapable of being satisfied with what he has already got. Not all of the tories told by St John and Mary completely gel together within the context of he novel as a whole, but they are still great vignettes.

While Mr Fox is certainly far less spooky that Helen Oyeyemi's previous novel, White is for Witching, a sense of menace still hangs over the life of St John Fox and there are definitely some gruesome moments to be found in his writing and thus, one infers, in his mind. Oyeyemi has recreated the atmosphere of the era excellently and infused the novel with great period detail; her rendition of Manhattan is a delight.

Mr Fox is a love story like no other. It is an endlessly inventive, mischievous story and Helen Oyeyemi has once again proved her prowess with magical realism.
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I usually love Helen Oyeyemi's work, but this one didn't really work for me. Firstly it reminded me very much of John Fowles' novel Mantissa, in which an author flirts perilously with his imaginary muse. Secondly I just found it so much hard work that I forgot to enjoy it. I have loved everything else she has ever written, but this did not grab me like the rest. I wish it had. It has playful, fairy tale elements and flights of magical realism that I usually enjoy but the actual shape of the novel was too choppy for me to settle with it.
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on 19 May 2012
Author St. John Fox stands accused of multiple murder - by his own muse and creation Mary Foxe. He also finds himself on the brink of divorce from his jealous wife, Daphne, who believes he is having an affair. Is St. John in love with Mary or Daphne? And does choosing one necessarily mean the end of the other? What's a man to do?

Stories within stories, slipping times and locations, where do memories and fantasies collide and divide? If you prefer a linear narrative, this is not the book for you. It reads like a dream, fragmenting when you try to make sense of it, but coming together in an inexplicable but satisfying way. Thankfully, Oyeyemi is cleverer than her potentially pretentious premise (and structure), and while I began reading sceptically, by the end I was hugely entertained by the way she turned the tables. (Although I was not quite convinced by the actual final chapter, feeling that the narrative had already reached its natural conclusion by that point.)

The plot stems from the contrived premise of a character coming to life with accusations against her creator. But as St. John writes and re-writes, constructs, deconstructs and reconstructs Mary's life (/lives) more and more is revealed about him and his own life. At first I was unconvinced by what seemed like a thin framing device for a collection of short stories. I was marginally annoyed by that, because I really enjoyed the individual short stories (and I am not usually a fan of story collections) and thought framing them as a novel was something of a cheat doing neither novel nor stories justice. The stories have a different rhythm to the connecting tissue of St John Fox's `real' life and interaction with Mary, echoing the formula of fairy tale. In fact, several of the stories are re-workings of traditional tales (Reynardine, Fitcher's Bird), and in fact, as I read on and realised how the stories and framework intersect, this built up to a realisation that the entire novel is a re-working of the aforementioned tales, and it all began to make a lot more sense as a whole.

I did this book an injustice by approaching it with scepticism (despite wanting to like it) and trying to analyse too early what turned out not to be the themes of the story. I was very pleasantly surprised by the journey on which this unexpected (love) story took me, and am already looking forward to reading it again on a future occasion, without my own pre-conceptions clouding my expectations. Next time, I will just sit back and enjoy the ride.
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on 28 November 2014
I hadn't heard of either Helen Oyeyemi or Mr Fox when I was first handed this book. This, I think, was a good thing, having since seen the polarisation of opinion it has caused within its Amazon and Goodreads reviews - I got to read it from a clean start with no expectation.

I say that's a good thing, because I'm now left to make up my own mind about something that's very hard to make up my mind about. I know for definite that I liked the book - it was almost impossible to put down at times - but understanding it is another matter.

To parrot what so many other reviews have said, this is more a collection of short stories connected by a theme (one which is at times so thin that it takes a few pages to find) than a coherent linear novel. We are presented with the recurring characters of novelist St. John Fox and his long-suffering wife Daphne who, we think, he probably loves despite his not seeming too sure of it himself. To confuse both us and them we also meet Mary Foxe, a figment of St. John's imagination who initially appears to be the intelligent, strong-willed (not to mention sensual) match, and sometimes complement, to St. John's intellect that his wife simply cannot be.

Mary is cast as many different characters, and sometimes does not appear at all, while facets of her and the others seem to appear in new characters to tell stories that are almost, but not quite, entirely unrelated to the St. John / Daphne / Mary narrative.

The whole thing is bound together by a sort of dream-logic, with recurring themes that are more like patterns and insinuations than solid plot points. With many allusions to English folk tales (specifically ones involving foxes and the murder of women) there are layers to each story and in the depths of each character that allow them to piece together on an allegorical level rather than a straightforward, logical level.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, not least because it's left me scratching my head. One half of my brain is nodding with a satisfied "Wow, yes!" while the other half is still gawping open-mouthed and wondering what just happened. If you like your fiction to make sense, this isn't the book for you. If, however, you enjoy reading for the mystery of it, and love to be swept away, then this might just work.

I can see how it has divided its readers into love or hate and not much in-between, and for that reason alone I'd recommend this book just to see how the reader reacts.
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on 29 November 2011
My experience of this novel is quite different to the few reviewers already listed and part of that might be due to my having a love of this kind of playful magical realism as well as re-told faery tales.

This was a book that I fell in love with from its first pages and remained enchanted throughout. So much so that on completion of the print edition I was quite happy to revisit it immediately via its Audible audio edition. The exquisite writing of the novel was further enhanced by Carole Boyd's rich voice and range of character voices.

Foxes naturally feature prominently and the cover art for the USA edition makes this clearer with its anthropomorphic foxes while the UK cover, with its elegant 1930s motif, is more ambivalent. I actually liked both for different reasons.

Oyeyemi draws on myth, fairytale and fable from various lands with special emphasis upon Bluebeard and his English equivalent, the were-fox Reynardine. Oyeyemi weaves these into the fabric of her central story and tales with the skill of a true storyteller. There are also themes linked to creativity and the relationship between artist and muse. It is sophisticated and witty and, for me, a pleasure.

This is a novel that I cannot recommend highly enough to those drawn to works of magical realism, tales of animal transformations and re-told fairie tales. This is the third of Oyeyemi's four novels I have read and each has been memorable though overall I found this the most accessible to date.
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on 15 May 2013
Loved the period detail of this novel, and the relationship between the two key characters. For me the dips into other narratives were less successful, so I was left wanting more of the 'Mr Fox' storyline. However, beautifully written and conceived and I shall be waiting for the author's next novel.
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on 26 September 2016
Not my sort of thing. Bought it as it was on my reading list at uni and it just didn't resonate with me. Decently written if a bit slow.
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on 23 July 2014
Bought as a gift and was well received
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Written in her mid-twenties, Helen Oyeyemi's "Mr Fox" is not so much a fully-fledged novel as a delicious entertainment. And as one might expect from such a young author, it is not so much about the experience of Life with a capital L as about the art of Fiction with a capital F, a writer writing about writers and writing.

There are dozens of interlinked tales in "Mr Fox," some a few lines long, others extending to the length of short stories, all centering on the cruelty that men and women can show each other within loving relationships. In that sense, the book is somewhat fragmented. Indeed, as the Yoruba woman remarks, surely a reference to the author herself, "I have too many stories."

Comparisons with Françoise Sagan, whose "Bonjour Tristesse" was published before she was 20, are interesting. Both authors were greeted with acclaim, astonishment, success and wealth with their first published novels. Sagan, however, never quite lived up to the expectations she created -- whereas Oyeyemi is certain to do so.

"Mr Fox" is full of enchanting narrative games -- stories within stories, characters who leap from an author's imagination and take on lives of their own -- but in the end, the book is as mysterious as that other, now somewhat forgotten, novel about transformations, David Garnett's "Lady Into Fox," A Man in the Zoo: AND Lady into Fox (Vintage classics)

Oyeyemi's style is lighter and more colloquial here than in her other novels, but her prose is bewitching, full of arresting images and sparkling turns of phrase. Perhaps the most bewitching thing of all is the effortlessness of this book. It simply materializes out of the air like a phantasmagoria.

It is to be devoutly hoped that Helen Oyeyemi's desire to write lasts a lifetime, and that she lets us share in what life gives her to write about.

I can't imagine any reader who won't be delighted by this book. Very highly recommended.
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