How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza
A Novel

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Some passages are narrated from the fox’s perspective and Cocozza pulls off the tricky task of marrying these two approaches. The results are unsettling, the writing often vivid and rich, even if Mary, on occasion, seems to fade into the words.
-Guardian

Synopsis

From Guardian writer Paula Cocozza, a debut novel of the breakdown of a marriage, suburbian claustrophobia, and a woman's unseemly passion for a fox

One summer’s night, Mary comes home from a midnight ramble to find a baby lying on her back door step. Has Mary stolen the baby from next door? Has the baby’s mother, Mary's neighbor, left her there in her acute state of post-natal depression? Or was the baby brought to Mary as a gift by the fox who is increasingly coming to dominate her life?

So opens How to Be Human, a novel set in a London suburb beset by urban foxes. On leave from work, unsettled by the proximity of her ex, and struggling with her hostile neighbors, Mary has become increasingly captivated by a magnificent fox who is always in her garden. First she sees him wink at her, then he brings her presents, and finally she invites him into her house. As the boundaries between the domestic and the wild blur, and the neighbors set out to exterminate the fox, it is unclear if Mary will save the fox, or the fox save Mary.

In this masterful debut, Paula Cocozza weaves together a penetrating portrait of marital breakdown, a social novel of wit and nuance, and an obsessive love story that crosses new boundaries.

 

About Paula Cocozza

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Paula Cocozza is a staff feature writer at The Guardian and has covered everything from soccer to fashion to fourth-wave feminism. Her writing, which has also appeared in Vogue, the Telegraph, the Independent, and the TLS, received the 2013 David Higham Award. Paula lives in London with her husband, two children, and a garden full of foxes. How to Be Human is her first novel.
 
Published May 9, 2017 by Metropolitan Books. 288 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for How to Be Human
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Elizabeth Mckenzie on Jun 23 2017

Cocozza cleverly blurs our capacities to judge Mary’s narrowing world. I wanted to root for this spirited underdog all the way.

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The Economist

Above average
on Apr 15 2017

In pleasant contrast to this claustrophobic human world comes that of the book’s vulpine star, known as “Red”, “Flight”, “Sunset” or “Fox”. In lyrical, disjointed prose Ms Cocozza describes how he naps, eats beetles and scents the neighbourhood...

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Natasha Tripney on Apr 18 2017

Some passages are narrated from the fox’s perspective and Cocozza pulls off the tricky task of marrying these two approaches. The results are unsettling, the writing often vivid and rich, even if Mary, on occasion, seems to fade into the words.

Read Full Review of How to Be Human: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alice O'Keeffe on Apr 13 2017

Cocozza has a wonderful eye for detail, and her descriptions of the natural world are uncanny...However, one measure of a good book is that it makes you see the world slightly differently, and I know that, having read How to Be Human, I will never look at a fox in quite the same way again.

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