This review is going to end up being another “this book was published in 2011 and I AM SO MAD AT MYSELF FOR NOT READING OYEyemi’s work sooner” kind of a review. So, you’ve all been warned ahead of time.
Mr. Fox is a novel that weaves in and out of itself, it tells the drama that is Mr. St John Fox, Daphne Fox, and Mary Foxe’s “love triangle,” with brief fable-like interludes that examine the ins and outs of entering relationships, failing relationships, and what draws people together. St. John Fox is an author who writes fairy tales that end with the death of the heroine. Daphne Fox is his very real wife, that, as the novel progresses, we discover isn’t secure in her relationship with St. John or in who is as an individual. Mary Foxe is St. John Fox’s muse, and she has grown tired of the heroine always dying in his stories and has taken on a physical form.
I’m fairly certain that this is the first time I’ve reviewed two works by one author. So, forgive me that my English Degree instincts are kicking in and I feel the need to compare this novel with Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories What is Not Yours is Not Yours (for my thoughts on that book, follow this link). I will remain brief: One of the attributes of this collection that I loved the most was that the voice of each of the stories was very distinct there was a through line that pulled the reader along. A side character in one story is the love interest in another, we meet the widowed woman who cares for a lover’s garden as a widow but in the next story, we watch her romance unfold. Oyeyemi’s ability to weave stories and perspectives together holds true in this novel. I am learning that control of voice is perhaps Oyeyemi’s strongest trait as a storyteller. If you loved the differing voices in What is Not Yours, you’ll go fox-wild for the perspective switches in this novel.
The book opens with Mary Foxe showing up in St John’s study, and telling him that he needs to do better work, or she will be abandoning him to work without a muse. She then pulls him into a game, they are going to rework his stories from the inside. Oyeyemi does this by pulling the reader into the stories that St. John had been working on. The characters of these stories become more explicitly Mary and St. John as the book progresses, and in the in-between moments of this game that they are playing the reader sees how this game is affecting St. John’s real life and his relationship with his wife through Daphne Fox’s perspective
Daphne is suspicious of St. John. She does not know who Mary Foxe is and only sees that St. John has begun throwing himself even further into his work, and has begun catching glimpses of Mary and the things she leaves behind. As the novel progresses she learns who Mary is and her jealousy only grows. Through Daphne’s perspective, the reader watches her relationship with St. John as she remembers it beginning and we can see how it is beginning to fall apart.
These perspective switches make it a story that you need to give yourself time to sit down and read. I began reading this book before moving to a different state and starting a new job, and I think that was a mistake. Having to pick it up and set it down continuously made me lost when I was able to sit and read in spurts between boxes and new projects. This made staying in the story more difficult than it should have been. Despite this, I love the experience of this book.
Recommendation: If you love stories with multiple narrators, perspective switches, and stories within the main plot. Pick a weekend and curl into a chair somewhere with this book. If you like any of Oyeyemi’s other books, I’m sure you’ll love this one. Just be sure that you have plenty of free time before you sit down and read.