UPDATE: a longer and better review has been done by Simon S here!
The first, to become no.13 on the list of books you should read, is Lady Into Fox by David Garnett, published in 1922. Don’t really know how renowned this novel is already, but I didn’t know anything about Garnett when my piano teacher mentioned Lady Into Fox. This is the lady who recommended Miss Hargreaves, so I was confident that the novel would find favour. The fact that Garnett was Virginia Woolf’s nephew-in-law could only be a bonus.
Lady Into Fox – can you guess the plot? Sylvia (clever name) suddenly turns into a fox – the novel follows Mr Tebrick, her husband, as he witnesses Sylvia increasingly lose her human nature, and degenerate into vixenhood. What could be quite an absurd narrative is dealt with cleverly, and the fantasy never takes over. Instead, Garnett delivers a gentle tale with strong and genuine emotions, which becomes an admirable story of pathos.
Sylva (which presumely sounds like the precious metal, and makes referring to the novel audibly rather tricky) was written in 1962 as a response to Lady Into Fox, though I didn’t know that when I bought the book. Interestingly, I bought it because I’d just read Garnett’s novel. Gosh. Anyway, this novel is actually a French one, by ‘Vercors’ (Jean Bruller), though of course I have a translation. It acts as ‘Fox Into Lady’, if you will, reversing the central conceit of Garnett’s work, and making it all a little grittier. Drug abuse is thrown in along the way, but Vercors’ novel is mostly interesting as a study of development and psychology – Sylva’s progress is intended to resemble that of mankind, but the centuries are condensed into weeks. A few too many ponderous expostulations, but enough charisma in the characterisation to make up for it. Both fun novels, but with thoughtful backgrounds and premises, and it’s always interesting to read books in a pair like this. Who’d have thought foxes could be so entertaining?