Friday, 3 June 2016

Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg

review by Maryom

Foxlowe is large country house, home to an unusual 'family' - a self-sufficient commune, where everything is shared equally, children are raised by the whole group, with no formal education, and it's rare for anyone to venture beyond the security and isolation of the extensive grounds. Income comes from selling their art and pottery, veg comes from the garden, milk from their goats. The 'Founders' - Richard, Libby and Freya - hoped for a place of peace and enlightenment, in harmony with the natural world and ancient ways represented by the standing stones on the surrounding moors, but instead an atmosphere of tension, rivalry and cruelty hangs over Foxlowe.

The story is told through the eyes of one of the children - a young girl named Green. She's the only one actually born at Foxlowe and has no outside experience to judge it by, so for her, this is the way things should be. She firmly believes in Freya's warnings about the 'Bad' which lurks outside their isolated world, and sees nothing suspicious about the paranoia about 'outsiders', or the forms of punishment inflicted on the children for bad behaviour. It's this punishment that lets the reader first know that Foxlowe isn't such a nice, happy place after all, and as Green's tale unfolds you soon realise that the community there came to an end with some form of calamity or disaster, though whether brought on by the inhabitants or outsiders isn't made clear till the end.

I always find something fascinating  about stories of closed-off communities - from shipwreck survivors to this kind of wannabe-utopia - maybe because close-knit, restricted groups seem bound sooner or later to implode (in fiction at least), so there's a thriller-style element to novels about them. Foxlowe certainly gripped me in that way, as I waited to discover what had happened, why, and what the fallout was.

I hope this isn't a plot spoiler, but it's maybe it's not a read for the squeamish, as some of the treatment of the children is hard to take, and could easily be distressing.

Maryom's review - 4 stars 
Publisher - 
Fourth Estate
Genre - adult fiction, 

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