A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Hearing the hunt, Mr. Tebrick quickened his pace so as to reach the edge of the copse, where they might get a good view of the hounds if they came that way. His wife hung back, and he, holding her hand, began almost to drag her. Before they gained the edge of the copse she suddenly snatched her hand away from his very violently and cried out, so that he instantly turned his head.
Where his wife had been the moment before was a small fox, of a very bright red.
What seems like a purely whimsical premise quickly becomes a haunting drama in David Garnett’s 1922 novel Lady into Fox. The newly married couple aren’t exactly prepared to deal with Mrs. Tebrick’s vixenish transformation. Sure, they struggle through at first—hiding the sudden change by firing the household staff and shooting the hounds (who are understandably provoked by their mistress’ new scent). For a brief moment it seems like things might work out. Mr. Tebrick tries to dote on his wife. He feeds her from saucers, dresses her up in what clothes will still fit, reads to her from Richardson’s Clarissa. But soon enough he notices her little distractions—first an obsession with the pet bird, then the rabbits, then the resistance to clothing and the need to run and romp.
As the plot of Lady into Fox carries on, going to some pretty dark places, it never loses its strange, melancholy mood of doomed romance. Garnett’s prose is disarmingly matter-of-fact for such a fantastical tale. It emphasizes the emotional depth of the story. You can read it all kinds of different ways: a biting (pun intended) satire on marriage, an allegory in defense of women’s rights, a topsy-turvy tale about animal cruelty, a Kafkaesque existential quandary, or maybe just a simple fairy tale. I think it would make an excellent, and rather creative, choice for book clubs. It’s also an easily digested 100 pages and is completely free for eReaders from Project Gutenberg.
Review by Matthew