MR. FOX by Helen Oyeyemi


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Postmodernist, meta-fictional riffs on classic tales, especially fairy tales, in which women die violently in the name of love, from Nigerian/British wunderkind Oyeyemi (The Icarus Girl, 2005, etc.).

The Mr. Fox of the title (and there are plenty of other Mr. Foxes here) is a novelist who kills off his heroines. He is living in 1930s New York with his younger wife Daphne, whom he tends to neglect while creating his fiction—a neglect akin to adultery since he is visited with increasing frequency by his imaginary but alluring muse Mary. Mary is dissatisfied with Mr. Fox’s treatment of women and challenges him, very vaguely, to a contest. Soon stories are appearing—it is never quite clear whether composed by Mr. Fox or by Mary—in which the roles of Lover/Murderer and Beloved/Victim go through a host of variations which bring to mind bits and pieces (as in body parts, pun intended) of various classic tales of misogyny. The serial killer Bluebeard casts a long shadow, as do the Grimm Brothers’ sorcerer Fitcher and the French fox Reynardine, as well as less familiar characters from Yoruba folktales. In the first, simplest story, a man chops off his wife’s head, thinking he can reattach it; he does but with problematic results. In more complex stories, women named Mary and men named Fox sometimes love each other but often commit gruesome acts of violence, physical and emotional. In the story “The Training At Madame de Silentio’s,” roles are somewhat reversed as young boys are schooled to become perfect husbands. Mingled among the titled stories are snatches of the growing marital crisis between Mr. Fox and Daphne, who is understandably jealous of Mr. Fox’s devotion to his muse.

The language is crystalline and the images startling, but forget any resemblance to linear logic in what is ultimately a treatise on love (with a clever borrowing from Cappelanus’ 12th century The Art of Courtly Love), on male subjugation of women and on the creative experience.




Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59448-807-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2011


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