Saturday, 27 August 2016

Foxlowe


Eleanor Wasserberg is a fantastic English teacher at my Sixth Form, so when I heard she was about to publish her debut novel, I tirelessly hassled the librarians and other English staff to allow me to borrow the proof copy (sorry...). I was lucky enough to be given the chance to read it, and I'm so glad I did.

Foxlowe is a dark, unsettling and at some points disturbing account of the disintegration of a commune. The novel is told in two parts; the first is about life at Foxlowe, and the second after Foxlowe. The circumstances of its closure remain unknown, although alluded to, until the very end. Both parts are written from the perspective of Green, who was raised within 'the Family' along with Blue, her younger sister.

From the first chapter, I fell utterly in love with Foxlowe as a setting. The huge crumbling mansion seems in equal parts comforting and repulsive, and the narrative reflects this; as soon as you become comfortable in the large, warm kitchen, something either disgusting (like off milk) or disconcerting (the 'spike walk') is described, placing you once again on edge. Coupled with this, the characters themselves are intriguing- I love the way Wasserberg does not reveal everything about them immediately, something which especially in the case of Freya, leaves you conflicted as to whether or not they are someone to trust.

In this way, the unreliable narrative of Green is also interesting- from her perspective Foxlowe is a place of safety and comfort, yet throughout her narration more disturbing elements are revealed, leaving the reader to question her point of view. I haven't really read that many books that are written in this way, however I will definitely seek them out from now on- I loved 'playing detective' and trying to figure out the truth about Foxlowe.

I won't say too much about the ending so as not to give too much away, but I was glued to the book for the final few chapters. Wasserberg leaves a few key pieces of information until the very end, causing the pace of the novel to increase, making it impossible to put the book down! Neither too much, nor too little is revealed, meaning some things fall into place, while others leave you suspecting, yet guessing until the final page.

Overall, I would highly recommend Foxlowe to anyone who enjoys slightly disturbing yet immersive literature, as well as unreliable narration. It is definitely on my 'to re-read' pile- I think it is one of those books that reveals more and more with each reading, and I cannot wait to read Wasserberg's next publications!



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