Book review: Foxlowe

Eleanor Wasserberg‘It’s hard to resist the pull of the shoal.’ This is a strange, sinister book by Eleanor Wasserberg about the group dynamic of adults who should know better, experienced and observed by children who learn from this parenting and either accept or rebel. If they rebel, they have the Bad inside them.

This is not an easy read, not so much because of the story but I found the writing style obscure. The narrator is Green, a girl who grows up as part of the Family, a cult, living in a house called Foxlowe on a deserted moor. They share everything, their way of life is steeped in the land and ley lines. They have everything they will ever need at Foxlowe, there is no need to become a Leaver. Green knows no other life, has nothing with which to compare it.

For the first 15% [I read on Kindle] I struggled with a lack of clarity, an avalanche of seemingly unconnected facts. For example, ‘The Scattering is something we learned from the Time of Crisis. Remember that the Bad had come inside the walls.’ Characters have before and after names, which added to my confusion. It seemed like an alternative world, given the double sunset at Summer Solstice, and I couldn’t help comparing it with the opening technique of dystopian novels which got me straight away. The first page of The Hunger Games, for example, which starts with an intensely personal moment which lets you into the strange world in which it is set.

Once I reached 20% of Foxlowe, I was skipping the vague bits and the lack of dialogue punctuation – a pet hate of mine – and so turned the pages quicker. It is the story of a commune, the Family, where the outside world is excluded by means of myth, abuse and scare stories. Gradually I pieced the facts together. Despite my original confusion, it is not an alternative world; they have a car and drive to the supermarket. Some are painters or craftsmen who earn money, others grow vegetables and raise animals. This then is a conscious decision on the part of the adults to be there. The children are either born there, or more sinister, appear to be stolen from outside. This is the story of Green, a girl of undefined age, and that of Blue, who arrives at Foxlowe as a babe in arms. The arrival of Blue, and a man called Kai who remembers Foxlowe in earlier times, changes everything.

There are three parts, the second told by the adult Jess/Green, sandwiched between two Green childhood sections. The third part and Epilogue are truly dark and disturbing, with the sense of inherited abuse.

If you like ‘Foxlowe’, try:-
‘Crow Blue’ by Adriana Lisboa
‘A History of Loneliness’ by John Boyne
‘The Quarry’ by Iain Banks

‘Foxlowe’ by Eleanor Wasserberg [UK: Fourth Estate] Buy here

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
FOXLOWE by @e_wasserberg http://wp.me/p5gEM4-212 #bookreview via @SandraDanby