A PATCH of neglected council land behind journalist and mother Paula Cocozza’s back garden in Dalston was becoming increasingly untidy. So she and a few friends got to work to clear it.
Then she noticed something strange: when she dug a hole, a fox dug a hole inside it. When she laid turf, a fox pushed it aside. Every day she went outside she’d see signs of intervention.
It occurred to her that the fox could be addressing her in a recognisable language of gesture and action. She was building a form of relationship with a creature that though increasingly urbanised in our city is still wild, potentially ferocious.
This was the genesis of The Guardian feature writer’s first novel.
In the story a fox enters and exits the world of the main character, Mary, like a ghost, appearing to bring her gifts. As he listens to her, so she listens to him. And, says the publisher’s press release, she goes through a kind of emotional re-wilding.
Author Hilary Mantel says: “Cocozza shows us that the line between the wilderness
and the city is thin, easily transgressed; the ghost breathing in the thicket is our own wild nature.” Or, as the late Jimi Hendrix put it, Foxy Lady.
Hamish Scott 140417
* How to Be Human (Hutchinson), hardcover £12.99, also in other formats
* Backstory: Novel success for a Dalston writer
* All pictures on this page © David.Altheer [at] gmail.com, for sale for reproduction, apart from Cocozza pic, © Christian Sinibaldi
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