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The Fox In The Attic (2000)

The Fox in the Attic (2000)

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3.49 of 5 Votes: 1
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0940322293 (ISBN13: 9780940322295)
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About book The Fox In The Attic (2000)

Hughes lapses into beautiful writing on occasion, but I had too many unanswered questions. Well, maybe not that many, but: why this story arc? It seemed so strange; we barely get established and acquaint ourselves with the above-stairs and below-stairs characters in Wales and England before the protagonist Augustine trundles off to Germany so that the author can show us some crusty Germany gentry, burgeoning Nazism, and Hitler's 1923 putsch.I never see the point of inserting real people into novels.Why kill a young child and then never reveal who killed her, and why? Was her death that unimportant to the novel that it needed to go unsolved? The novel starts beautifully, with a description of sea marshes and two hunters returning from a shoot, and quickly shocks us. One hunter is carrying two shotguns and "a brace of golden plover." The other, whom we find out is Augustine, "carried over his shoulder the body of a dead child."Why is a fox living in the house of a German aristocrat?So Lothar with Augustine's half-Bradbury still safe inside his shirt betook himself to his gymnasium; and at the first whiff of all the delicious manliness within its echoing portals he snorted like a horse. The abiding smell of men's gymnasiums is a cold composite one, compounded of the sweet strawberry smell of fresh male sweat, the reek of thumped leather and the dust trampled into the grain of the floor and confirmed there by the soapy mops of cleaners; but to eighteen-year-old Lothar this tang meant everything that the wind on the heath meant to Petulengro and he snorted at it now like a horse let out to spring grass.---For Augustine had fallen in love, of course. As a well-made kid glove will be so exactly filled with hand that one can't even insert a bus ticket between them, so the membrane of Augustine's mind was now exactly shaped and stretched to hold Mitzi's peerless image and nothing more: it felt stretched to bursting by it and couldn't conceivably find a hair's-breadth room for anything else.---Competently and gently, like dusting fragile porcelain - but a bit absently, as if the porcelain was unloved - Nellie wiped the eyes with a swab of cotton wool. Then she made little spills of the cotton wool, dipped them in oil and twiddled them in those defenseless ears and nostrils. The infant's head was too heavy for it to be able to move it but every other inch of its body jerked and shook in paroxysms of rage and sneezing, and at every such movement all its tender contours crumpled and collapsed like a half-deflated balloon.N----- count: 1"Thus here there had been no adequate replacement for the once-unbridgeable hereditary castes and trades which had now so long been melting: now, too, that derided nigger-line at Calais was growing shamefast, weakening..."

After two successful novels in 1929 and 1938, Hughes did not publish anything full-length until 1961 when this first volume of an (incomplete) proposed trilogy emerged.Set in 1923, the story follows a 22-year-old somewhat solitary aristocratic Englishman, heir to a family house near the Welsh coast but unwilling to hire the staff to keep it in style (owing to discomfort with the class hierarchy rather than parsimony), nor mix with the local townspeople. We think the scene is being set with a host of colorful local characters (e.g. the drunken physician, demoted to coroner) and a dramatic linchpin (drowned child) but after just a few pages, he decides to see the world and sets off to stay with distant cousins in Germany.The main plot tension comes from the juxtaposition of several post-adolescents, each with characteristically fervent beliefs. Having just missed the Great War, the Englishman (called Augustine) is quite confident that all mankind has now learned its lesson about war, that God is officially dead and peace and common sense will reign henceforth. His Bavarian cousins regard war as the blessed and necessary scourge of their baroquely bloody God and his son, on behalf of his chosen German people. Some language barrier (we are told Augustine's German is of an execrable Swiss type) and some secrecy on the German side (regarding a war criminal hidden in the attic), causes their diametric opposition to never be quite apparent to all parties.Augustine imagines he will be breathing the fine modernist air of Weimar, attending the plays of Ernst Toller and so on, not even aware that the latter's six days as president of the failed Bavarian Soviet Republic of 1919 ended with his cousins lining communists up against a wall and shooting them. The story itself covers the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 and takes the aesthetically bold step of incorporating real historical characters, including Hitler.

Do You like book The Fox In The Attic (2000)?

If you are a historical fiction (or military fiction) buff this is a book for you. Completely in the vein of War and Peace (and Walter Scott? I think it must be) this is one of those big Tolstoyan dramas where both fated historical events that can't be changed intersect with the daily, naive lives of the characters. It does however have a modern feel to it, with very short chapters and a rather strange authorial voice popping back and forth into the text now again.It also, as behooves a Tolstoyan imitation, many like philosophical asides, many of which come from the rather silly protagonist Augustine, but others from the author are not so silly and have a great way of evoking a time and place (Bavarian, 1923) that is both ancient and modern, provincial and global, liberated and educated and really rather stupid. But when you are in Hitler's head you realize that you better be reading really fucking carefully. The Beer Hall Pusch scene is justly celebrated I think. And I did enjoy going through the rounds of characters, both in the Wales section and the Bavarian section. There is no doubt that Hughes can write, but towards the end I was losing a bit of patience in the increasingly frequent philosophical digressions. I'm not sure if I'll be reading the sequel, The Wooden Shepherdess, in the near future. Still, it is definitely a classic example of historical fiction. A genre which I often find powerful and interesting (and I know I'm not the only one). If you agree with that, you'll probably enjoy this book.
—Nicholas During

I persevered with this book against my own better judgement on the basis of some encouraging reviews both on this site and also on the cover of the book itself. Also, the subject matter seemed promising. However I found the book was intensely boring, badly written and clumsily expressed. The characters were uninteresting and poorly drawn. Although there were some interesting insights into the state of Germany following the Great War this book gives neither a very clear account of the appeal of Nazism or of Hitler himself and the account of events around the attempted coup is just shambolic.
—Trevor Challenger

... just started ... but here is something I never heard before.It is widely reported that the German people, and the army, were shocked when Germany agreed to an armistice and basically admitted they had lost WWI. It became one of Hitler's main selling points, and a huge lie, that Germany had been "stabbed in the back" by Jews and Communists.Hughes writes that the English were equally shocked to have won. After years of simply feeding young men into a death machine in the trenches (14 million died in WWI), suddenly the war was over and they were victors. They were stunned!I am at the point in "Fox in the Attic" where the main character has just relocated from England to Munich. It is 1923. I am anticipating Hughes' take on the Hitler beer hall putsch, which is the first major section in my own novel-in-progress.AFTER HIGH EXPECTATIONS, THE FOX BECAME QUITE A DISAPPOINTING READAfter a better than adequate beginning, The Fox in the Attic simply lost itself once Augustine arrived in Munich. ... The descriptions of the Hitler putsch were not dramatically rendered, and I believe there were some factual errors. ... There was little character development of the Nazis or the presumed main characters Augustine and his family. ... Several characters appeared for the purpose of giving a report on some incident or other and then disappeared. ... The plot itself became a confused mess.I confess that I skimmed the last half of the book, but that was all I could force myself to do.
—Lewis Weinstein

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