What Is Happening to Mr Fox

I wanted to give Helen Oyeyemi a try but didn't know where to start. When I read an author for the first time, I like to find something they wrote at my library. It's a safer risk. My library had Mr Fox.

Mr Fox is an author who writes books in which women are murdered. He says that the murders aren't senseless, but they must die. His imaginary muse Mary Foxe has had enough of this and is becoming sentient. She confronts Mr Fox and proposes a game, in which she writes him short stories from the point of view of women. She places him in their places. He must see the world as they do and feel how they feel. In the meantime, Mr Fox's wife Daphne isn't sure if he's having an affair or losing his mind.

Mr Fox is a misogynist, though I doubt he's see it that way. Women are plot devices to him. Their deaths carry the plots in his books forward. He compares his real wife to a woman that he's made up. Of course Mary is everything he wants in a woman- he created her. He doesn't start seeing his wife as a person until Mary becomes real and asserts her own personality.

I was getting fed up with the 'dead girl' trope in review pitches I was getting via emails. They all start the same: "After a girl's body is found..." I was tempted to write to the sender of the last one I got. To tell them to find at least a new way to pitch this kind of book. It's beyond aggravating to see girls/women being used as plot devices this way. I realize that mysteries and thrillers usually start with a body, but the sexual violence in a lot of these books is tiresome. I was looking forward to seeing Mr Fox get a taste of his own medicine.

The drama of Mr Fox, Mary Foxe, and Daphne weaves around Oyeyemi's short stories. Though the main plot is set in the 1920s, the stories hop around in time. There are stories set in that time period, but also in the modern era. What can get confusing is that Mary is sometimes a character in these stories. I didn't know what was happening. I also think a lot of what Oyeyemi is trying to say was lost on me. It was a bit over my head.

But I still liked Mr Fox. I thought Mary and Daphne were excellent characters. I liked the writing style and the book is sufficiently weird. In a lot of ways, Mr Fox reminds me of some of Angela Carter's stories. They're also weird and feminist.

If you want to read something strange, something that requires a lot of thought, you might enjoy Mr Fox.

Mr. Fox


  1. It sounds like this might be a good book for a book club.

  2. I have read one book by her and really liked it up until the end where it sort of lost my interest. I keep meaning to read more from her because I know lots of people that love her.

  3. I like Oyeyemi and I enjoyed this one, but I agree that you have to be comfortable with the knowledge that you probably will not understand everything (at least during the first read!).

  4. Ha! I think a lot of it was over my head too, or also possible, Helen Oyeyemi is not an author one needs to spend lots of energy on Fully Understanding in order to love her. Gosh, I should reread Mr. Fox. I went to see her talk about that book at McNally Jackson when it came out, and she was a damn delight.

  5. IDK, maybe if this was a novel... But I tend to,shy away from short story collections, perhaps unfairly

  6. This sounds great! And I really like that cover too. I haven't read any Oyeyomi either, but I've wanted to for a while - but where to start? Maybe I'll see if my library has this. Has it encouraged you to read more of her work?

  7. What you've said sounds similar to my experience of Boy, Snow, Bird - that was okay book and there was definitely something going on but I never got the sense I was getting it quite right, it was quite vague. I think it was Jenny (Reading The End) who said Oyeyemi's books have a tendency to be quite difficult in that respect.


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