Feb 3, 2008

Lady Into Fox

by David Garnett

This story is about transformation and change. Like Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, in this surreal fantasy a person inexplicably becomes an animal, yet retaining their human mind and emotions. Unlike Kafka's book, where Gregor Samsa's change was met with disgust and repulsion by his family, sweet Sylvia Tebrick's husband still loves her strongly. After all, it's much easier to feel affection towards a fox than a large insect! When Sylvia suddenly becomes a fox, her husband sends away the household dogs and servants in an attempt to keep her condition secret. Sylvia the fox is at first distressed with her animal form, trying to walk upright, play cards, wear clothes like usual. But gradually, to the grief and dismay of her husband, she behaves more and more like a wild fox, until he can no longer keep her safely in the house. Sadly, the ending is inevitable and not very well disguised from the reader.

The strength of this book lies in its examination of emotional and psychological reactions to a sudden change in a loved one, which we have no power to halt or reverse. I've read that at the time of its publication, it was appreciated by many British families of war veterans, who had to face living with a loved one turned stranger by disability or mental trauma. But I think it is highly applicable today: accidents, illness and any number of things can irrevocably alter a person beyond recognition. Lady Into Fox has a strongly mythical feeling, haunting like a dream that remains with you long after waking.

Out of print for a long time, this book was reprinted by McSweeney's in 2004, in a beautiful edition containing the original woodcut illustrations.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 78 pages, 1922

More opinions at:
Paperback Reader
Page 247
Savidge Reads
Fleur Fisher Reads
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Shelf Love

3 comments:

Gentle Reader said...

I love the idea of examining the emotional reactions when a loved one changes suddenly--this sounds very interesting...
thanks for the review! I'm also interested in looking at more from McSweeney's...

Bybee said...

What a strange book. I love the premise, that it was written so long ago, and that it's been reissued. McSweeney's is a pretty cool press! Thanks for the review...the stuff you come up with is so fresh, so incredible.

Jeane said...

Gentle Reader and Bybee- Thanks, and you're welcome! I thought this book was kind of weird at first, but it's really charming too. I only recently discovered McSweeney's myself; they publish some great stuff.