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Book review: Fox 8 by George Saunders

Review by Bob Hart, Rosebank PR & Communications.



For the last few months Bay Health Festivals book reviews have looked at a selection of non-fiction titles covering everything from developing better lifestyle habits to histories of surgery and treatment of mental illness.


This month we’re looking at a work of fiction, but one that has as much to say about life and wellbeing as any of the factual books we’ve covered.


And besides, what’s better for your mental health than spending some time lost in a good story?


Fox 8 by George Saunders is a very slim little novella that packs some big ideas into a small number of pages.


Like Aesop’s Fables and The Wind in the Willows, the writing is in the long literary tradition of using anthropomorphised creatures to explore life’s issues and share wisdom.


The story follows the experiences of the titular Fox 8 as he faces the loss of his den to a shopping mall development, resulting in his separation from his family and friends.


The first thing you’ll notice is that the book, as narrated by Fox 8, isn’t written in standard English. It takes a page or two to get used to the style, but you’re soon immersed in the world of the fox.


He begins: “Deer Reeder: First may I say, sorry for any werds I spel rong. Because I am a fox! So don’t rite or spel perfect. But here is how I learned to rite and spel as gud as I do!”


What follows is a short book that shines a new light on big ideas: humanity’s relationship with the natural world; loss; family; friendship; and coping with tragedy and change.


Reflecting on what he’s been through, Fox 8 writes: “I know life can be gud. Most lee it is gud. I have drank cleen cold water on a hot day, herd the soft bark of the one I luv, watched sno fall slow, making the wuds kwiet. But now all these happy sites and sounds seem like triks. Now it seems like the gud times are mere lee smoke that, upon blowing away, here is the reel life…”


But despite his newfound pessimism the fox continues to look for ways to come to terms with his experiences and find ways to live life in the present.


Telling his story is his way of making sense of the world and his emotional response to challenging events in his life - an effort to find the answers that “might retreev the old and hope full me”.


It’s an amazing little book - an hour or so to read, but containing a lifetime of ideas and wisdom.




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