Yoshifuji Is A Man Fascinated By Foxes, A Man Discontented And Troubled By The Meaning Of Life A Misstep At Court Forces Him To Retire To His Long Deserted Country Estate, To Rethink His Plans And Contemplate The Next Move That Might Return Him To Favor And Guarantee His Family S ProsperityKitsune Is A Young Fox Who Is Fascinated By The Large Creatures That Have Suddenly Invaded Her World She Is Drawn To Them And To Yoshifuji She Comes To Love Him And Will Do Anything To Become A Human Woman To Be With HimShikujo Is Yoshifuji S Wife, Ashamed Of Her Husband, Yet In Love With Him And Uncertain Of Her Role In His World She Is Confused By His Fascination With The Creatures Of The Wood, And Especially The Foxes That She Knows In Her Heart Are Harbingers Of Danger She Sees Him Slipping Away And Is Determined To Win Him Back From The Wild For All That She Has Her Own Fox Related SecretMagic Binds Them All And In The Making And Breaking Of Oaths And Honors, The Patterns Of Their Lives Will Be Changed Forever I think this would have been a five star read had I not read Fox Magic from Johnson s short story collection first This was elegant and beautiful, quiet and slow, full of pain and magic I loved the themes of humanity and love At first Kitsune s point of view was my favourite, but I came to really enjoy Shikujo s, which I had not expected to I m so pleased I read this and eagerly look forward to Fudoki. Some kitsune, the Japanese word for foxes, have magic can shape shift into human beings But that choice has costs, as all choices do The Fox Woman weaves three diaries into a story about a kitsune who falls in love with a human First, there s the fox woman herself, whose love of Yoshifuji drives her to become human She forces her family to become human with her and creates an entirely magical world in order to seduce Yoshifuji Yoshifuji s entries describe his growing fascination with the foxes, and also the frustrations of his marriage to Shikujo Shikujo is the ideal 10th century Japanese wife, but that ideal means she s rarely free to act out her own desires, or to even know what those desires are Shikujo s entries show her perfection, but also how that perfection inhibits her relationships with everyone.The Fox Woman once again reiterates why I m so glad I was born in the 1980s Taking place in 11th century Japan, the social norms for women were stifling, suffocating But this is a novel about agency, about how the choices we make affect us and everyone around us, even if we follow the social norms Shikujo has to choose to break away from perfection to be herself, to become wild, while Kitsune has to shed some of her wildness and magic to find what it really means to be human She finds agency in human emotion and complexity Yoshifuji, as the husband, isn t restricted in the same ways, but he is also imprisoned by the social restrictions on women, for he wants a wife that is his equal What kind of life is it for him if the people he loves aren t allowed to interact with him in healthy ways This is a subtle, lovely novel I recommend also reading Sei Shonagen s The Pillow Book It s a zuihitsu a diary in lists by an 11th century Japanese court lady, and I can tell it influenced the writing of The Fox Woman as Johnson mentions in her acknowledgements It s also a fun read. The Fox Woman is a book I found interesting than enjoyable The writing is beautiful and the narrative voices of the three main character s journals are quite fitting to their personalities, but their accounts can also be bogged down by minutiae It takes about half the novel for it to seem like it s going somewhere, and Kaya no Yoshifuji is so morose I don t understand why multiple individuals were in love with him Though slow and occasionally tedious, I did think this was a very artfully written novel.Full Review Kij Johnson s first novel is an expansion of her Sturgeon award winning short story It is a quiet, rather slow moving story of three weak, unhappy people It s based on the Japanese folk legends of kitsune, foxes, which are rud to have the ability to turn into people, especially beautiful women.Yoshifuji, finding himself out of a job for the season, decides to move back to his country home, taking his wife, Shikujo with him Once there, a young fox, Kitsune, sees Yoshifuji and falls in love with him at first sight, developing the irresistible urge to follow and pursue him, driven to great lengths to become human so that she has a chance that he will love her.Yoshifuji is depressed, full of malaise, with no energy to pursue his career or anything Shikujo is also depressed, feeling constricted in her society and mildly unhappy with her marriage She also has a seemingly inexplicable hatred of foxes Kitsune is most dissatisfied of all, not to mention self centered, as she pursues her love with no regard for Yoshifuji himself, his wife, or her own family s well being.Having flawed, human characters can certainly improve a novel But I found all three main characters annoying and unsympathetic I also think the book would have worked better if it was set in a Nippon esque fantasy world rather than specifically in Heian era Japan Johnson obviously did a lot of research on the time period, adding in many period details but I didn t feel that the mindset really fit the place and time The words and thoughts of the characters often seemed, to me, to betray a modern perspective with criticism implicit of the society of the time, rather than coming from within that society For example, in a society where it was customary for servants to always be present, a character would not feel the need to comment on the constant presence of those servants and muse on the nature of being alone It would be taken for granted There are many other such bits comments on the place of women in society, the instincts of animals, the role of a wife, etc, all of which I felt betrayed a non period attitude I felt like the message of these folktales had been changed, to the point where this is a retelling of The Little Mermaid with Japanese trappings, than a true Japanese tale.Also, in the book, Shikujo must mention over a dozen times how, in the tales, foxes are always evil This is not the case although yes, the tales often end in tragedy Still, according to wikipedia Japanese folklorist Kiyoshi Nozaki argues that the Japanese regarded kitsune positively as early as the 4th century A.D There were shrines to fox spirits, where people left offerings Also, a fox who could change shape gained this ability through enlightenment gained over a long life often 100 years In contrast, the Kitsune of the novel is less than a year old, and is decidedly non enlightened.All that said, the book was well written, and had a particularly well done, powerful ending. I picked up this book because I read one of Johnson s short stories, The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change all those capitalization choices are hers don t ask me , and enjoyed it I wound up liking her longer work even better This lyrical, layered mythological story won t be everyone s cup of tea, but I loved it At first I found the pace so slow that it was easy to put the book down, but once things got rolling, there were enough delightful moments and enough originality to make it well worth the read.The narrative consists of the three main characters diaries Kitsune, the fox who becomes a woman Kaya no Yoshifuji, the perpetually dissatisfied noble and Shikujo, his too perfect wife Yoshifuji has lost his job in the capital, so that his family is forced to move back to their country estate, where foxes have taken to living under the old house He grows obsessed with the foxes, Kitsune grows obsessed with him, and his wife becomes obsessed with his obsession.The diary format provides some excuse for the slowness and inward focus, as the characters spend a lot of time mulling over their thoughts at almost every juncture The three of them sound very much alike, like one person arguing three different points of view than three distinct voices One odd thing is that Kitsune s diary isn t a diary at all in it, she is speaking from the time of the story s end I kept thinking there would be some mention of this eventually, but this was never justified Maybe Foxes don t keep diaries will just have to do Really the whole diary business felt like an artistic ploy, but without it the story would turn out quite different.The story itself, an expanded version of a Japanese folktale, is roomy enough to allow Johnson to play and invent Her take on magic works as well as any I ve ever seen in fiction Kitsune has fallen in love with Yoshifuji and needs to be his wife Her magical means of doing this takes advantage of Yoshifuji s own needs By allowing him to see what he want to see, disguising his desires as expected facts, the foxes are able to fool Yoshifuji into joining their family for ten years Even though they make some entertaining mistakes, like practicing calligraphy on the walls and writing horrid poetry, the man buys into it The foxes fascinate him so much that he accepts their version of the human world, even though it must strike him odd that, for example, his new wife doesn t have a name.One detail I loved was the way the constructs the servants and other people invented as part of the magic to make it look real have the ability to come to life Not all do unsurprisingly, when the magic loses power most of its visible results fade But a few develop an existence in their own right, and stay For awhile I even thought Shikujo might be a fox magic construct herself.The theme of a civilized society interacting with the wild world really struck a chord with me The book did a fine job of exploring the nature of life in both worlds, and what it means to be human. I liked this book, although I liked Fudoki, Johnson s later novel, better.This one is a fairy tale retelling set in medieval Japan, about a fox who falls in love with a man and turns into a human or an illusion of a human in order to have him It s told in epistolary form, through the diaries of the three main characters the fox, the man, and the man s wife Multiple narrators are the curse of the ambitious debut author, but while all three voices clearly come from the same writer, this didn t bother me here, perhaps because of the fairy tale ambiance and the elegant prose Additionally, the book switches between narrators every couple of pages, which helps counteract the story s very leisurely pace and keep readers interest.There is a lot to admire here well drawn characters, a strong sense of a place and respectful, apparently well researched handling of the setting, the insertion of non embarrassing bits of poetry that the characters often use to communicate Johnson does a great job of creating and maintaining a mood pensive, reflective, almost melancholy, which fits the story exactly And the themes of wilderness vs civilization and illusion vs reality are well handled and leave room for reflection The foxes world is an illusion but how much of human civilization is a fiction in one way or another Still, I prefer Fudoki Johnson s writing style, while good here, improved between the two books, and Fudoki has relationships between women and less icky sex and obsessive romance The romance between the man and fox here may not have been intended to be romantic in any case, it isn t But if you re looking for a good historical fantasy or fairy tale retelling and don t mind a slower pace, you could do far worse than The Fox Woman. Gorgeous retelling of a Japanese fable about a fox who falls in love with a man and transforms herself into a woman to earn his love a little slow moving in parts, but that s part of its charm it s a reflection on what it means to be human, and therefore the slower pace is entirely appropriate And Johnson s language is spectacularly evocative I have always been interested in fantasy with oriental flavor and in haiku poetry, so this book is right up my alley Basically, this is an expansion of a classical japanese fairytale, a three character study about love, relationships, aspirations Plot wise nothing really happens, basically a nobleman, his wife and a magical fox note down in their diaries everyday impressions and spend a lot of time gazing at their navels This is an extreme simplification of the book, for behind these apparent eventless days there is a lot of drama dealing with the condition of women in 10th century, the rigid tenets of social life, the disillusionment of middle age and most of all the nature of love and self discovery.The main selling point for me is the relationship with nature source of beauty and wisdom and mirror of characters emotions Western tradition sees nature as an adversary to be conquered, here it is a garden to be preserved, admired and respected edit for spelling 2015 A new favorite, really like this setup focusing on actions and their feelings for the 3 involved parts the man, the wife and the fox You follow the fox getting in love with a humen and their life rich with inspiration of Japanese traditional culture who seams very boring and suffocating for some, especially the women.I liked the fox narrative best true the whole story but you could feel the lonelyness and the sorrow wibrating true the pages.
Kij Johnson is an American writer of fantasy She has worked extensively in publishing managing editor for Tor Books and Wizards of the Coast TSR, collections editor for Dark Horse Comics, project manager working on the Microsoft Reader, and managing editor of Real Networks She is Associate Director for the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and serves as a fina
- 384 pages
- The Fox Woman
- Kij Johnson
- 09 December 2019 Kij Johnson