Inspired by David Garnett

Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall

mrs foxIt is not often that a short story will get published as a standalone book – but just occasionally they do. Sarah Fox, (author of How to Paint a Dead Man – my review here) won the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 with Mrs Fox, and Faber have published it separately.  At a scant 37 pages, a fiver is a lot to pay for even an admittedly nice edition of a short story – but, it is a rather wonderful one.  (The Kindle edition is less at £1.71).

It’s about a professional couple.  He loves her more than she loves him, yet she stays, until one day she becomes ill, and then a couple of days later transforms into a fox. He takes her home and becomes an emotional wreck – what can he do? …

But wait – I hear (some of) you saying. We’ve read that before!

Yes, indeed you have – you’re thinking of Lady Into Fox by David Garnett (my review here) – a novella from 1922.  In fact Hall’s story was inspired by Garnett’s, and is a contemporary reworking of it.  Hall is renowned for her slightly detached protagonists and for the depth of nature and landscape in her writing and that is all present here.  Like Garnett’s story, Hall’s one too shows that anthropomorphism is a mere fantasy, but that man and animal can form different bonds.

I’m glad this caught my eye. I really enjoyed it, finding the contemporary reworking more to my taste than the original. (9/10)

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Source: Own copy. To explore further at Amazon UK, please click below:
Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall, Faber paperback 2014.
The BBC National Short Story Award 2013, intro by Mariella Frostrup – contains all 5 shortlisted stories.
Lady Into Foxby David Garnett, other editions available.

7 thoughts on “Inspired by David Garnett

  1. Intriguing! I liked Lady into Fox very much, but I’m not sure how I feel about a modern reworking. The pedant in me is a bit resistent to the idea (which is why I’m still trying to make my mind up about the McDermid Northanger Abbey and whether I should approach it at all). The trouble is, we live in a culture of recycling ideas – which is why I end up reading older books all the time!

  2. In Hall’s reworking, she’s very much an urban fox – the story is similar but not quite the same. I agree that there is a lot of recycling going on in literature – not all of it works. This did worked for me.

  3. I don’t know either story but I’d be interested to read them both just to see how different one tale can become in the hands of two different stylists.

    • I find it hard to believe that Hall’s story, being so derivative of Garnett’s was considered original enough for this prize. In the preface at the front it acknowledges Garnett, but apparently in the original broadcast on Radio 4, it didn’t according to someone who heard it and tweeted me.

      However as to the similarities and differences – they are both of their time, and one is town, the other more country…

    • I’ve only read the one before, which wasn’t an easy read. I’ve heard The Electric Michelangelo was good though, but I did enjoy this story, derivative though it was.

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