Thursday, June 08, 2017

Fiction Review: How To Be Human

Another of my reviews for Shelf Awareness has just been published: How To Be Human by Paula Cocozza. You can read my full review at that link (and sign up for the Shelf Awareness newsletter in the upper-right corner of that page).

So, a quick background and bit of intro on this novel and its review. I have to admit, this is a weird one! But it grew on me.

It's about a woman in London who falls in love with a fox that visits her backyard (aka garden). Yup, you read that correctly. Like I said, it's a weird one, and at first I struggled with it a bit. This fox does all kinds of bizarre things, though sometimes you're not sure whether the fox really did something or whether the main character is just losing it (which she definitely is, to some extent, after a bad breakup). Ultimately, though, I ended up liking the novel. Shelf Awareness only publishes recommendations, so I had to decide whether I enjoyed it enough to review it, and I did. You can check out the review for more on the plot and what I thought of it.

Interestingly, one problem I had at first was that I thought it wasn't believable. We have LOTS of foxes in our backyard and the woods behind our house, and I've never seen one get that close to the house - or come in the house - or do any of the other things the one in the novel does. Again, I assumed that at least some of that was the main character's overactive imagination and state of distress. But when I typed "fox london" into a search engine, this article from the LA Times came up (don't ask me why the LA Times is reporting on foxes in London). It explains how foxes are all over urban London. They've been spotted on the subway, on a high floor of a skyscraper under construction, and yes, have even come into people's homes, with two reports of foxes dragging babies out of cribs! (which may or may not have happened in the novel).

So, it seems that the novel is actually realistic from that perspective, in addition to being a captivating story about human nature and healing.

Photo from L.A. Times


  1. When my brother lived in London they had a fox that would come to their back door! This sounds a bit magical realist for me.

    1. It's really not at all magical. I'm not a fan of magical realism, generally (there are a few exceptions). This is 100% realistic fiction - it's just that the main character is anthropomorphizing the fox to some degree. That's why I looked it up - and it's true! Foxes really are coming into people's homes, etc.