Monday, 26 June 2017

How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza

review by Maryom

Behind Mary's garden, squeezed in between her road and the one backing on to it, is a wild wooded piece of ground - and in that wood lives a fox, coming out at night to sneak from one garden to the next, and scavenge through the dustbins. One day Mary comes home from work to find him on her lawn - and she feels that in some way they've made a connection, that she and this fox can be friends.

To be frank, I struggled with this book. I got to around the 10% mark without feeling any interest in it, and gave up. After reading a couple of other books I went back to it, read a little more, and still thought I'd not bother ... Third time was lucky though. The story had moved on to a point where Mary's creepy, manipulative boyfriend has re-appeared on the scene, trying to worm his way back into her life, and it held my attention more. Even so, overall it didn't grab me, and I'm puzzled why, because I feel it ought to have done.
The story unfolds from Mary's point of view, told in the third person but still seeing events through her eyes - and she doesn't feel like the most reliable of narrators. It's not clear at times whether things are actually happening or if Mary's imagining them, which left me a bit baffled.
At the same time, I think I took the story too literally - I saw a sad, lonely woman, possibly starved of human contact, indulfing in really bizarre behaviour - making friends with a fox in the way that some surround themselves with cats, deluding herself that the fox reciprocates her feelings and attachment, treating it as a pet or even a baby. She lets the fox into her house and cuddles up with it on a blanket - while my mind was yelling "Don't do that! Think of fleas, ticks, mange!".  I had more sympathy for Mary's neighbours who saw the fox as a threat to their children and cat.


Maryom's review - 3 stars 
Publisher - 
Hutchinson
Genre - adult fiction,

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