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David Garnett – Lady Into Fox

September 26, 2011

118. Lady Into Fox by David Garnett (1922)

Length: 91 pages

Genre: Classic, technically Fantasy

Started: 03 September 2011
Finished: 10 September 2011

Where did it come from? Free Kindle download.
Why do I have it? Clare’s fault.

So many “foxy
lady” puns… How can I pick
only one of them?

Summary: The Tebricks are a happily married couple, content in their English country life. One day, Mrs. Tebrick accompanies her husband on a hunt, and while they are out, something unexplainable and astonishing happens: within the space of a moment, Mrs. Tebrick turns from a woman into a vixen. Mr. Tebrick immediately takes her home and, in the absense of a way to change her back, treats the fox the same way he had treated his wife when she was human. He’s convinced his wife is still the same person, and for a while she seems untouched in spirit (although much changed in body). But how long can his loyalty to his wife last, as time goes on and she becomes more and more foxlike?

Review: This is one of those books that I wanted to like more than I actually did. I didn’t dislike it; it’s well-written and well-paced, it kept my attention, and there were a number of sweet moments that I wasn’t expecting. My problem was that it just didn’t speak to me. If I were feeling in the mood to be analytical, I could use this story as a platform to talk about a number of things: how to deal with a drastic change in the personality of a long-term partner; how Mr. Tebrick keeping his wife safe meant keeping her locked up away from what she really wanted; how the fox represents a number of different, conflicting personality aspects and how they may or may not be repressed in Victorian women, etc. I can easily see it being mined for good material for a book club or a high school class discussion. But I feel like I’m having to dig for those themes and meanings; I didn’t find the book in itself particularly thought-provoking, nor did it ever capture my imagination. Overall, I thought it was unobjectionable, but not particularly memorable. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Even for a short little book, there’s a lot of material here with the potential to be really interesting; it most likely will speak to others in a way that it didn’t to me… and if not, hey, at least it’s short and well-written.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Dog Ear Diary, The Literary Omnivore, Page247, Stuck in a Book, Vulpes Libris, and more at the Book Blog Search Engine.

First Line: Wonderful or supernatural events are not so uncommon, rather they are irregular in their incidence.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. Location 272: “But, poor gentleman, his troubles were not over yet, and indeed one may say that he ran to meet them by his constant supposing that his lady should still be the same to a tittle in her behaviour now that she was changed into a fox.” – a very small part or quantity; a particle, jot, or whit.
  • Location 516: “When they had stayed there half-an-hour Mr. Tebrick harnessed the horses again, though he was so cold he could scarcely buckle the straps, and put his vixen in her basket, but seeing that she wanted to look about her, he let her tear away the osiers with her teeth till she had made a hole big enough for her to put her head out of.” – twigs from any of various willows, as the red osier, which have tough, flexible twigs or branches that are used for wickerwork.
  • Location 1004: “One evening he went to a cottager who had a row of skeps, and bought one of them, just as it was after the man had smothered the bees.” – a beehive, especially of straw.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2011 9:45 am

    Fair enough! You’re right, it would be rich grounds for discussion, especially since it’s so short that you could be mostly sure everyone would read it, heh. I’m also happy to have this pinned on me; I love how you “blame” people for books.

    • September 27, 2011 11:30 am

      Clare – I always love hearing that people went out and read a book based on my say-so – look at me, changing the world with my blathering about books! – so I figure that when I can, I should return the favor and pass on the joy/blame. :)

      Books like this always kind of make me sad that I don’t have a book club/high school English class to discuss them with… but I guess that’s what the internet is for!

  2. September 26, 2011 8:32 pm

    I haven’t read this book because I’ve always had the impression that the title is writing checks the content of the book can’t cash. And at last someone has said the same in their review of it!

    • September 27, 2011 11:32 am

      Jenny – You might want to take all of those other reviews into account; it’s entirely possible (likely?) that I’m just being a crank who isn’t in the mood to think deep thoughts about what I’m reading. :-D

  3. September 27, 2011 4:45 am

    I love this little novella, but I can see how it might not appeal to all. I thought the dual metamorphoses, as it were, worked interestingly – how much Mr. Tebrick changes through the book too.

    Unrelatedly, I had to read Jenny’s comment several times before I remembered that Americans spell ‘cheques’ as ‘checks’. I could not work out what was going on! ;)

    • September 27, 2011 11:36 am

      Simon – That’s a good point; there’s an interesting contrast between the wife, who changes essentially all at once, and the husband, who’s much more gradual but eventually winds ups changing just as much. It’d be an interesting exercise to re-imagine this book from the wife’s/fox’s point of view.

      …And now I’m picturing the author running around compulsively scrawling little checkmarks on the walls, receipts, bank teller slips, etc., and giggling like a madwoman.

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