Author: Helen Oyeyemi, 2011.
Genre: Magical Realism. Re-told Fairy Tale. Fables.
Other Details: Paperback. 280 pages. Unabridged Audio; 8 hours, 15 mins. Read by Carole Boyd.
"She's not real, honey, she's only an idea. I made her up." - St John Fox to Daphne Fox.
It is 1938 and the celebrated American novelist St John Fox is hard at work in his study until his long absent muse wanders in. Mary Foxe is beautiful, British and 100% imaginary. She is in a playfully combative mood, accusing him of being a villain, a serial killer. For St John Fox has a predilection for murdering the heroines of his tales and Mary has returned determined to change his ways. She challenges him to join her in a series of stories of their own devising. However, it isn't long before St John's wife, Daphne Fox, becomes suspicious of Miss Mary Foxe and a most unusual love triangle ensures.
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.
This was a book that I fell in love with from its first page and remained enchanted throughout. So much so that I was quite happy to revisit it immediately via its audio edition. The beautiful writing of the novel was further enhanced by Carole Boyd's rich voice and range of character voices. This is one I cannot recommend highly enough to those drawn to works of magical realism and this kind of tale of animal transformations and re-told faerie 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.
Endicott Studio Article on Bluebeard - Page 2 on Mr. Fox/Reynardine.
Helen Oyeyemi's 'Mr. Fox' page at Picador - includes links to her 'fox thoughts' and the opening chapter.