MAZZONI AND HER FOXY LITTLE TALE SLINKS INTO YOUR HEART AND STAYS THERE

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Thankfully Albinism is more commonly accepted in humans, due to medical research, than it is in the animal world, where albino’s are usually ostracised by their own kind and struggle to survive. It’s thought that albino alligators, for example, have a life span of around 24 hours, due to the lack of both UV protection in the skin, and camouflage to protect them from predators. Before researching this review, I assumed only animals and humans were prone to albinism, but plants can get it too. But not all ‘albino’ animals are  really albino’s. They are loosely referred to as being such, however, true albinos have red eyes.  This month’s third book review features an albino animal, it’s The Snow Fox Diaries by Jan Mazzoni, published by Amazon last August.

Katie is a smart and successful partner in a  London estate agent; until the boss’s rampant gambling debts bring about its demise, and with that her job.  A year later, and she’s still unemployed, and starting to lose hope. When a client of her husband Ben, offers her the opportunity to move to the edge of Exmoor and renovate the interior of a house left to them by a relative, Katie jumps at the chance to escape a capital. She hopes to avoid struggling through a vicious winter and the onset of a crippling financial crash, fby heading for the fresh ,but frozen, fields of the West Country. With Ben leaving her for weeks while he tries to keep his own business afloat in London, Katie sets about working on the house and exploring the moorland. The countryside has been ravaged by a hard winter and the rabbit population devastated by a myxomatosis epidemic, which in turn is having a knock on effect on the food chain, forcing other predators such as foxes and the like to find alternative food sources. After a while Katie starts to catch glimpses  of a white fox around the garden, and in the distance across the fields, as well as on the roadsides. Then one day in early spring, while walking on the moors she gets up close to a white vixen and her  two cubs. Taking a couple of photos, Katie starts to feel a bond. Locals are aware of a supposedly rare albino fox, but also resentful of foxes for attacking local livestock. When the two  white cubs are bludgeoned to death by local youths, Katie is desperate to find the vixen, but her growing obsession with the fox is having a detrimental effect on both her mental state and her marriage. Can she save the rare fox, with the help  of family and some dubious new local friends, while also trying to get her life back on track?

If you’ve already read this week’s previous review, you’ll remember my wife describing how she sidestepped this book after reading the first page and the description of numerous animal deaths. It turned out to be a scene setter for the book, and  yes there are gorier animal mishaps. Being set in rural England, there are going to be a few four legged casualties. So I was able to somewhat overcome these little details.

The book itself, is a bit of a slow burn at first, but then, being an animal lover, the story did start to get to me. I am, as you may know from previous reviews, a slave to my emotions and very much in touch with them, so much so, that by the time I was finished, I was emotionally bereft and felt the same way I do after watching animal movies in general. 

Mazzoni’s writing style ensures that this story gets under the readers skin and tugs at the heartstrings, while also being topical. As the story takes place against the backdrop of the recent financial crisis, there are similarities to present day, considering what we are enduring now, and will face, in the economic aftermath.

Overall, I felt like in some instances, there were similarities to  Where the Crawdads Sing, with a troubled female character, helping an animal and using it to work through her own personal trials and tribulations. Although others might draw more similarities to books such as Watership Down, only here, with a fox as the central theme.

 

Jan Mazzoni

This English author Jan Mazzoni (www.janmazzoniwriter.com) third book, the others are Dreamland And Other Stories and Stones Of The Madonna. Jan has been writing since she was a child and has only recently realised that her stories fit into the Genre of Eco Fiction. She lives on the edge of Exmoor in Devon with her husband three Romanian rescue dogs.

So, if you are looking for a heart-warming story to remove you from the various physical, political and medical storms whirling around outside your door, then look no further than Mazonni’s book. Take yourself online to amazon and order or download a copy and transport yourself to the wilds of north Devon, and join Katie in her campaign to save a rare fox.

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy and read it, come back and tell us what you think. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

THERE’S NO PADDY-WHACKERY IN MCGAHERN’S SIXTH BOOK, JUST A HEART WARMING TALE OF IRISH RURAL LIFE

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That They May Face CvrEvery year in March sees one of the biggest events of the global calendar, this is of course St. Patrick’s day, who is the patron saint of Ireland and all things Irish. So, while more and more countries celebrate the 17th of March by turning rivers, large iconic buildings and instantly recognisable monuments green; it also a time to reflect on what Ireland has given the international community. One of its biggest exports apart from Guinness and Arran jumpers is literature and recently the book club had the chance to read another well-known Irish writer. This month’s book is, That They May face The Rising Sun, by John McGahern, published by Faber & Faber in 2002.

The title may make you think, as it did with me, that it is set in some theatre of war, possibly in Asia, but it all takes place in peace time Ireland. The story follows the lives of Joe and Kate Ruttledge, for the first year after they have returned home from London to Kate’s home town in the border region of Ireland. The town is full of charming and quirky characters, each with their own problems and various idiosyncrasies. The Ruttledge’s spend most of their time in the company of their friends and neighbours from across the lake, Mary and Jamesie.

This book may not have much going on in the story-line, it charts the comings and going on in this small rural town-land, like a diary of sorts without chronological references. Just subtle indications to the gradual changing of the  seasons, but McGahern’s charming little tale doesn’t require a big block busting pacey driven plot to keep you engrossed. The characters who are all excellently drawn and diverse, latch on to you and keep the reader turning the pages. There’s the town bachelor, the local business man, who is nicknamed “The Shah”, who helps life move by oiling the cogs of the local economy, but can can’t let go of the reins of the business to his only employee and a local cripple who is left mentally and physically scarred by his tragic upbringing. At the centre of it are the Ruttledge’s, a happy go lucky couple who have no real cares in the world and the only real threat to their new existence is the offer of a job back in London, by Kate’s old boss.

John McGahern

John McGahern

It appears Joe and Kate met while working for the same company in London, but Joe seems to have left their former employer under a cloud which isn’t explained but is hinted at, now he farms and does consultancy work.

There is a lot of humour in the book and drinking too! Every single page seems to have the characters calling into see each other and having large glasses of Irish whiskey.  The characters have little or no malice in them, even where is a malicious intent, it is portrayed in a humorous almost darkly comical light. Take the towns eligible bachelor, who finally takes a woman to the alter but is really only marrying her for her dowry, cooking and cleaning skills. The reception is held in the grounds of a big local house and he, being quite unsure of social niceties literally takes her in the biblical sense on a hill in full view of the guests… This may shock some, but through the way Maghern tells the story, you are left with a shocked smirk on face, as if to say, did he actually do that?

This is not twee Irish, there’s nothing Darby O’Gill about it or any stereotypical

Irish RM Cast

Brian Murray & Peter Bowles

characters in the book, it had for me reminders of the Irish RM, a British TV series that ran on Channel 4 starring British actor Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born) and Irish actor Brian Murray (Brookside) back in the eighties. What you get from this book after reading it is a warm fluffy feeling as if you have just spent a week in the in a stone whitewashed cottage in the west of Ireland.

 

This Irish writer John McGahern’s sixth of seven novels, in all he wrote fifteen books the others were collections of short stories and one play The Power of Darkness. His other novels include The Barracks (1963), The Dark (1965), The Leave Taking (1974), The Pornographer (1979) and Amongst Women (1990). Born in 1934 he trained as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer. He won numerous awards both in Ireland and Internationally for his work and his book, Amongst Women was made into a four-part TV series for BBC. He died in 2006.

If there’s a downside to That They May See The Rising Sun, it’s a little confused as to what era its set. All the descriptions point to possibly late sixties early seventies. But there are references to one of characters watching the ITV show Blind Date which was hosted by Cilla Black between 1985 and 2003 and in another paragraph, they talk about the moon landings as if only happened the day before, which took place in 1969.

So, if you are looking for a charming, homely Irish book to read by an outstanding contributor to Irish literature, that is full of wit and will leave you feeling happy and contented at the end, while also itching to visit the emerald isle and kiss the Blarney Stone, this is the one for you. So, head in to your local book shop or download a copy. Open your drinks cabinet and find a nice Irish whiskey and settle down for a great read, especially with another cold snap planned for Easter period.