"His wildness was a gift. She wanted never to forget the immense favour he did them, the kindness of reminding them that no matter how lonely the city became, you could open a window or a door or even just an eye and find a mass of life that listened back."
How to Be Human is released in the UK today (April 6th). It is written by Paula Cocozza and published by Hutchinson.
I don't think I'm the only book blogger finding it difficult to review How to be Human; I've had a scout around Goodreads and a lot of reviewers mention struggling to write up their feelings about the book. It may be because How to be Human is not like anything I've ever read before. It has similar themes to several books I've read; isolation, obsession and depression, but Paula Cocozza handles it in a totally unique way.
Honestly, I'm still not sure if I enjoyed the book or not, it's been a few weeks and I still don't know how I feel.
None of this is very helpful to you, is it? I'll crack on with the blurb.
The premise of How to be Human is very simple; a lonely woman befriends a wild fox, but it leads into a complicated look at one woman's mental state and also the way society interacts with each other and the wildlife that is at its doors.
Sometimes it gets a little too complicated and the story gets swamped in its own wonderings and musings. It was a bit of a dredge to read at points.
However, the idea is a good one, and it highlights the wildness that lies dormant in everyone.
In a way, How to be Human is a character study of one woman and how she is coping with loneliness and stress, and also how she becomes deluded; believing herself and the fox to be in a relationship. Cocozza does this quite well and, though there are a lot of mysteries around Mary, she is believable and explored well.
I also liked that Cocozza provided the fox's thoughts as well as Mary's. They're written in a jumpy way, using made up words and focusing on smells, domains and food. It broke up the focus on Mary as well, which could become quite heavy at times.
"The air poked damp and saline. Come fresh to stalk around the human Female with sly feet and rippety eyes. Spruckling toadsome."
There are lots of good things about the book but it mainly made me uncomfortable, which is presumably what the author is trying to do. I always had the feeling that something very bad was going to happen. It's seeped with paranoia and loneliness, like Mary's mind, but it didn't always make me want to keep reading.
I was also a bit frustrated that several aspects of the plot were left unanswered; is the boyfriend a stalker? How does the baby end up on the step? There are more that I can't mention but can't because of spoilers. Mystery is good in most cases but in some parts of the book it felt like the author was going out of her way to be mysterious for the sake of it.
How to be Human is unique and interesting, but it didn't grip me.
Oh, and I know it shouldn't matter but I really like the cover. I think that's what drew my attention to the book in the first place.
My Rating: 3/5
I received a digital copy of How to be Human via NetGalley in return for an honest review. My thanks to the publisher and author.