How to be Human by Paula Cocozza

“He was lying on the grass in the centre of her garden. He had chosen an ostentatious spot for a doze. But she didn’t believe he was sleeping, because although his body presented itself as entirely still, his ears spiked sharply, ready to countermand his elegant sprawl.”

This is a really hard book to review without giving the plot away, which is how I like to write up the books I read.

It is about Mary, who lives alone, in a house she bought -out from her ex-boyfriend. Her neighbours Michelle and Eric are friendly enough, with their two kids; George and Flora, the babe-in-arms.

Life is not currently a pleasant place for Mary, I mentioned she had split up with her boyfriend! She is still single and her neighbours invite her to their barbecue. Are they matchmaking?

Talk turns to the local fox population, Michelle has a thing about them and seems to want to get an exterminator in, Mary isn’t so sure.

Mary has a problem of saying the wrong thing and then regretting what she has said. It’s a confidence thing. Maybe with time she will grew stronger, particularly now she has a new companion and protector. At least he will help keep her ex, who has just reappeared unexpectedly in the neighbourhood, at bay.

Mary confused me and yet I totally understood her. I empathised with her so much in many ways and then found myself thinking, why?

How do I score this book? I enjoyed it, but by the same token I found it odd. This is one you will have to decide on for yourself as to whether it is for you. I can’t compare it to anything I’ve read to give you any clues.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
‘An intriguing and subversive debut, charged with the power of the ignored and the suppressed.’ Hilary Mantel
‘Eerie, original . . . A thrilling exploration of what makes us human.’ i
You’ve seen a fox.
Come face to face in an unexpected place, or at an unexpected moment.
And he has looked at you, as you have looked at him. As if he has something to tell you, or you have something to tell him.
But what if it didn’t stop there?
When Mary arrives home from work one day to find a magnificent fox on her lawn – his ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surprise – it is only the beginning. He brings gifts (at least, Mary imagines they are gifts), and gradually makes himself at home.
And as he listens to Mary, Mary listens back.
She begins to hear herself for the first time in years. Her bullish ex-boyfriend, still lurking on the fringes of her life, would be appalled. So would the neighbours with a new baby. They only like wildlife that fits with the decor. But inside Mary a wildness is growing that will not be tamed.
In this extraordinary debut, the lines between sanity and safety, obsession and delusion blur, in a thrilling exploration of what makes us human.

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