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Mr. Fox

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  8,195 ratings  ·  1,337 reviews
An exhilarating new direction for Helen Oyeyemi with a mischievous story of love, lies and inspiration

It’s an ordinary afternoon in 1938 for the celebrated American novelist St John Fox, hard at work in the study of his suburban home – until his long-absent muse wanders in. Mary Foxe (beautiful, British and 100% imaginary) is in a playfully combative mood. “You’re a
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published September 29th 2011 by Riverhead (first published June 3rd 2011)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  8,195 ratings  ·  1,337 reviews

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Helen Oyeyemi can write voices. Men’s voices, women’s voices, English voices, American voices, Nigerian voices, French voices, human voices, animal voices.
I’d trust her to write an authentic voice from any geographical location, any time frame, any political situation, any gender, any species.
Because Helen Oyeyemi truly owns the world she lives in.

She can write stories that become novels and novels made from stories.
She can write in different styles, be it myth or modern.
She can play around
He shrugged. "These are our circumstances. I'm just trying to make sense of them," he said.
Mary was silent.
"Everyone dies." He smiled crookedly. "I doubt it's ever a pleasant experience. So does it really matter how it happens?"
"Yes!" She put a hand on his arm, trying to pass her shock through his skin. "Yes."
This starts off cute, then begins to cut. It's metafiction, but in the sense of reality feeding books feeding reality, the recursiveness of ideology as word turns work in the most
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book for the light of mind, or faint of heart.

There is such a haunting, beautiful ... emptiness ... to it all, that I feel I should be giving it more stars than I am. Every body else seems to think it's a good read, and so I must be missing something, right? But the majority of those who say what a good book it really is don't seem to know why.

Let me suggest a Poem:

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.

If I am
Friederike Knabe
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-lit
Mr. Fox is about the most enchanting and captivating book I have read in quite some time. Helen Oyeyemi is a highly inventive and multi-faceted storyteller. Her characters are both anchored in reality and in the worlds of fantasy and fairy tales. They can be serious or funny and ironic, they can fall in love beyond bounds or hate with a passion, they can be docile and subdued or vicious and violent. Underneath it all are serious issues being addressed despite the playful manner in which the ...more
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4.5 stars
5 stars!!

Well I liked the opening, but it took me a while to get over the slime of St John, the sleaziness he spread everywhere. There was a voice, a piping, femme-seeming voice struggling with self-confidence that seemed to be Mary's, but nothing was clean, there was this fug of the male gaze. The women were preoccupied with their looks, their attractiveness, craving male attention. But this gender horror is real, rape culture is in us, there is no pure desire,
Jun 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am so pleased that I picked up this book, because it has reminded me that life is far too short to persist with books that you don't like. This book is so capital-m Meta that it's probably illegal to write a review of it. Luckily, the novel was so busy interrogating tropes and questioning literary conventions and borrowing from genres that it didn't even notice when I shut it at about page 100 and shelved it.

I want a story and characters, which probably makes me more conservative than a Mad
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, favorites
Fantastical and full of mystery, Mr. Fox offers a series of surreal, enigmatic variations on the titular fairytale, along with “Bluebeard.” Each tale starts simply but takes many unexpected turns and becomes increasingly baroque, and all are framed by an overarching narrative, in which St. John Fox, a famous novelist, is admonished by Mary Fox, a figure of his imagination, to not write sexist novels normalizing violence against women. As the work unfolds characters start to hop across stories ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this because it is so imaginative and clever but I found it hard to finish and didn't feel like I "got" it. This was one of those books that was so enamored with its conceit that at times it loses the reader. Still, this is an audacious, important book well worth reading.
Vulpes - Latin for fox. Old French goupil derives from the Latin, but the popularity of Le Roman De Renart and the bad augur of actually naming the 'verminous' creature meant that renard became used, first as a euphemism, and then as the standard term for fox. Reynard, associated with Reinhard, which comes from old German Regin - counsel and hart - strong, thus someone who is resourceful, quick-witted, clever. The English word fox is similar to the German Fuchs, which apparently corresponds to ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightful and quirky play with a variety of myths and tropes. Primarily the Bluebeard myth; which is, as the Guardian review reminds us is “the usual – wooing, seduction, then – the discovery of a chopped-up predecessor". There is a fairy tale element running through; the main antagonist is writer St John Fox (Reynard the Fox runs through fairy tales going back for centuries).
The novel is set in the 1930s and St John Fox is a novelist whose novels usually end in the main female
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into this with a slight disadvantage since I don't really know the fairytales/folklore that this book plays with, so I feel like I missed out on a lot of the interesting things that Oyeyemi does here. Also, this is Meta with a capital "M" which I can sometimes enjoy but I think a full novel and pushing and pulling and twisting literary devices got to be a bit wearing for me.

However, man can Oyeyemi write a story. If I took this as a short story collection, then man, these are some
This was nothing like I expected and I absolutely loved the whole fascinating, strange, perfectly sensible, crazy thing. Review posted in roundup of books on my blog:
Pippi Bluestocking
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-lit
I never liked crime fiction. I read from a variety of genres, I even read lots of trashy books too, but I think there isn't one who-dunnit I can like. There are a few reasons for this (one is that I usually figure out the culprit, but I'll shut up 'cause now I'm sounding like a git) but the most important one is that crime fiction trivialises human life in a way I cannot sympathise with. No one cares about the person who died or the people left behind; we only care about solving a puzzle, ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Question for discussion: is Mr. Fox in fact a meta-romance novel, an attempt by Oyeyemi to make herself the Ursula K. Le Guin of that most beleagured of genres? Or is it in fact a meta-fairy tale with deep feminist implications that happens to use romance as the ground for its conflict, between a writer (Mr. Fox), his fictional muse (Mary Foxe), his concrete wife (Daphne Fox), and the author of Desperate Characters and several beloved children's novels (Paula Fox, who doesn't actually appear in ...more
Lark Benobi
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel proved to me the importance of sticking with a book longer than its first few pages. The metafictional whimsy of the first 50+ pages grated on me...and then all at once the book soared. Many times I feel that metafiction becomes cold and pointless, too self-aware for it to have greater purpose than to point back to the author's cleverness, so I tend to be on my guard when I begin a book that uses these elements. Oyeyemi's novel masterfully achieves what the best metafiction can do, ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Statutory Warning: If you like your stories served up in the traditional way with a beginning, middle and end, and with characters behaving like rational human beings in conventional settings, then Helen Oyeyemi is definitely not for you.

Mr. St John Fox, the writer, has an unusual visitor one day - the beautiful Mary Foxe. What makes her unusual is that she exists only in his head.

Mary Foxe took birth in Mr. Fox's head in the trenches of The Great War (actually, World War I - but the novel is
Book Description

Considering that I’m still not really sure exactly what was going on, writing this summary shall be a challenge. Let’s see … as best as I can tell, the story is about a writer (Mr. Fox) who is married to a woman named Daphne but is having an affair of sorts with his muse (Mary Foxe), who is slowly taking corporeal form in the real world. But when I tell you that this story is not told in a straightforward way, trust me on that

My Thoughts

The story of this love triangle is told in
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi - the opening at least is very confusing but at the same time hilarious with lots of lovely prose. As I settled into it and recognized the flights of fantasy, I was less confused but still delighted by the fairy tale aspect and the general story-telling.

A favorite quote (there are too many to share a complete list!): "All around them people were speaking a language Brown didn't understand; it was like silence with sharp edges in it."

So many beautiful sentences, beautiful
I don't really know what happened here, but I enjoyed every bit of it. This is more of a short story collection with a linking narrative. I really loved some of the short stories. Not sure if this makes me want to read more from Oyeyemi, but I will enjoy rereading this!
Katie Lumsden
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. It's a strange and twisting story, but Oyeyemi's writing is clear and precise and the premise very interesting. There were a few stories that I thought didn't fit into the book as well as others, but the majority were great.
"'I stood up and went to the window. When I got close to her she looked down at her watering can. "Mrs. Fox," I said. "You're a horror today." To which she replied, "Why don't you write a book about it?'"

This is the story of, well, Mr. Fox. And Mr.Fox has one major failing: he can't stop killing all his female characters. Of course, this is a failing many people (men, really) share with him, but most of them make it through life perfectly fine, never thinking this particular indulgence of theirs
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Chris Barzak
Easy to read/hard to define/wonderful/full of wonder throughout. I've written a few fix-ups (sometimes called mosaic novels) in my time. It's a trick I love to play and at first I thought this was one: a dozen or two short stories written on a common theme and strung together.

But no, Mr. Fox is all original work and a far deeper riff, a series of variations on a theme of "Mr. Fox" the English folk tale that is itself a variation of the story the French call "Bluebeard" and the Germans
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Helen Oyeyemi and also everyone else
I don't know, I don't know, I don't knowwwww. The more deeply a book touches me, the less I know how to say anything about it. My reaction to this book is kind of like how I feel when I look at the moon; I'm full of all these senseless impulses, I want to eat it, I want to breathe it. It should be cool and bright in my mouth. Every word is luminous and strange and wonderful. I want everyone in the world to read it and love it like I do and talk about it so I can consume all their thoughts, too. ...more
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, slipstream
I don't know.

I love Helen Oyeyemi's voice, but I kinda feel like she was trying to do too much with this. I couldn't find the basic outline. I couldn't keep track of who represented what!

Mary, for instance, is said to be Mr. Fox's muse/creation...but I just couldn't see that. I don't think she quite works on that level. To me, the character works solely as a representation of the invalidated female voice: not a muse, not Mr. Fox's creation at all.--Or is that the whole point?--And Mrs. Fox
Jan 10, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

DNF'd at 40%. This is a very unusual and unconventional story, but unfortunately in this case, the strangeness hampered the novel rather than making it wonderfully unique. It is about a man that is having a mental affair with his fictional muse, which is having significant effects on his life in reality. There are also interspersed short stories of fiction the man and muse collaborate on, which are interwoven into the "real life" reality and fictional (mental b/t the
Book Riot Community
Oyeyemi’s books are always kind of strange but filled with interesting ideas, and this is no exception. The main character, a writer named Mr. Fox, has been writing stories in which the women always die. Mary Foxe, an imaginary woman he made up as a sort of guide and muse, is now challenging him to do better. The two begin to write stories to each other, and although Mr. Fox does not immediately change his ways, the stories get deeper and more complex as the two writers, one real and one not, ...more
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great introduction to a new for me author.
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just when I think there’s little new under the sun, along comes Helen Oyeyemi and shatters all my perceptions about how a story can be narrated. This young, brave, gifted Nigerian-born British writer is a modern day Scheherazade, weaving her tales in the form of a most unconventional love triangle: St. John Fox, a “serial killer” writer (the women in his books always die), a muse (or is she?) named Mary Foxe, and his wife Daphne.

The book is loosely based on the legend of Bluebeard – a feared and
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Absolutely wonderful. Its a novel built around different stories. What happens when your fictional muse comes to you and start questioning your work? Philosophical at times, confusing at times. I must admit I was not impressed with the beginning, but towards the middle the book totally sucked me in. I still have so many questions bubbling in my mind. An author meets his muse would be a one line summary for the story.
Marianna In Africa
Well, I'm not entirely sure how to review this book! Probably because it's impossible to say what exactly it's about - and yet, it was a very satisfying and fun read. Helen Oyeyemi creates stories within stories, playing with well-known fairy tales and tropes (Bluebeard is the main focus, but also another version of this story, Fitcher's Bird, and Reynardine). There is no linear narrative here, the story of Mr Fox, his wife Daphne, and Mary Foxe spans decades and emerges in a number of different ...more
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Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist. She lives in Prague with an ever-increasing number of teapots, and has written eight books so far.
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“Solitary people, these book lovers. I think it's swell that there are people you don't have to worry about when you don't see them for a long time, you don't have to wonder what they do, how they're getting along with themselves. You just know that they're all right, and probably doing something they like.” 168 likes
“I’m never sad when a friend goes far away, because whichever city or country that friend goes to, they turn the place friendly. They turn a suspicious-looking name on the map into a place where a welcome can be found. Maybe the friend will talk about you sometimes, to other friends that live around him, and then that’s almost as good as being there yourself. You’re in several places at once! In fact, my daughter, I would even go so far as to say that the further away your friends, and the more spread out they are the better your chances of going safely through the world…” 55 likes
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