Author: Eleanor Wasserberg
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Dark
Release Date: June 7th 2016
Page Count: 240
The children are the easiest for the Bad to slip in to. They must be watched.
Firstly, I would love to give a huge thank you to the Harper Collins Canada First Look Program for providing me with an Advance Reader Copy of Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg in exchange for a fair review. It is a huge honour to be a part of the first block of Canadian feedback for this debut novel!
Foxlowe is one of those books that makes you feel uneasy from the second you start reading it. The dark undertones are present immediately and they never dissipate. I’m one of those strange kids that likes books, and even television show and films for that matter, that are darker in tone. When I came across Foxlowe through the Harper Collins Canada Facebook page, I was immediately drawn to the front cover. A creepy house with a vague, yet intriguing name like Foxlowe, I just knew I needed to find out more. I read the synopsis and I knew right away that this was the perfect story for me. I entered for a chance to be one of 10 Canadian book bloggers to read and review Foxlowe as part of the HCC First Look program, and I am so completely honoured to have been chosen! I had the opportunity to read another novel through the HCC First Look program a while ago called Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight and I absolutely loved it, so I had really high hopes for Foxlowe.
Foxlowe tells the story of a small group of people who live in a commune of the same name. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl named Green, her Foxlowe name, who has lived on the commune her whole life. She is part of the small group of children known as the Ungrown. New to the group of children is Blue, Green’s younger sister. There is also a group known as The Grown that consist of the adults of the house, three of which are considered the Founders. I don’t know about you, but cults have always been something that both intrigue and scare me. I find it interesting to see why people flock towards cults in the first place, but I never really thought about the people that are born straight into the lifestyle.
Each member of Foxlowe has two names, their Outside name being the name that they were born with before they joined Foxlowe, and the name that they are given when they join it. Because Green was born into the cult, it is the only name she has ever known. It is the only lifestyle she has ever known. This idea makes for a really interesting story, as some of the characters, especially the older ones, have their memories of their old lives that pull at them to return home where Green only knows Foxlowe as home, and can’t understand what is so great about the Outside.
While I found the idea behind this story to be truly unique and attention grabbing, it was definitely hard to follow. The writing style was unlike anything I have ever read before and I found it quite difficult to understand at times. It makes sense, due to the nature of this story, and the fact that it takes place in a cult, that the way these characters speak is slightly off. They still speak English, but slang terms that refer to things that only the members of Foxlowe can understand are thrown in throughout the story and this definitely confused me slightly. One of my favourite books of all time is A Clockwork Orange which is filled with Nadsat slang, yet I was still able to wrap my head around it eventually. I can’t say this was the case for Foxlowe. Terms like The Bad, The Crisis and the Cloud were used and I just couldn’t figure out what everything meant. I had my personal guesses, but none of them were addressed in detail.
Ultimately, I was left with a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the novel. How did Blue arrive at the cult? Is she a biological sibling of Green or was I missing something here? What was the point of including the character of Kai? Was there a deeper storyline going on with the children of Foxlowe? There were definite undertones there, and I think I have a theory, but once again, I just couldn’t seem to grasp a definitive answer. The last few moments of the novel make me believe that my theory is true, but it was too hard to tell for sure.
I also had a hard time figuring out how old each of the children were. They measured their ages by solstices rather than years and that made it really hard for me to figure out how many years apart they were from one another and also how old they were at any given time during the novel as time jumped a lot throughout the duration of the novel.
I loved the chapters towards the ends of the novel, that provide us with a flash forward into the life of Green as an adult. I feel like these chapters were even more dark and twisted than the moments told from her childhood perspective. These chapters gave us as the reader insights into how badly life at Foxlowe corrupted Green’s mind and how hard it is for her to accept any other lifestyle.
Overall, I think that Foxlowe had one hell of an intriguing premise. The dark and twisted undertones that I got from reading the synopsis definitely found their way into the entire novel. Apart from the writing style being difficult to follow and understand, I believe that the story is quite interesting and had the potential to be fantastic if it weren’t as vague and answered a few more questions. Foxlowe is dark and gripping and it definitely gave me the chills on multiple occasions!