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Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg

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Are you looking for a creepy and engaging read with interesting reflections on memory and childhood? You may like this book that comes out today. 

Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★.5
Find it/buy it here: Foxlowe

This ARC was provided by Harper Collins (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: A chilling, compulsive debut about group mentality, superstition and betrayal – and a utopian commune gone badly wrong. We were the Family, and Foxlowe was our home.

There was me – my name is Green – and my little sister, Blue. There was October, who we called Toby, and Ellensia, Dylan, Liberty, Pet and Egg. There was Richard, of course, who was one of the Founders. And there was Freya.

We were the Family, but we weren’t just an ordinary family. We were a new, better kind of family.

We didn’t need to go to school, because we had a new, better kind of education. We shared everything. We were close to the ancient way of living and the ancient landscape. We knew the moors, and the standing stones. We celebrated the solstice in the correct way, with honey and fruit and garlands of fresh flowers. We knew the Bad and we knew how to keep it away.

And we had Foxlowe, our home. Where we were free.

There really was no reason for anyone to want to leave.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed this exploration of life in a commune told from the perspective of the only child ever to have been born there. This novel was different because instead of the commune being run by a charismatic man, it was run by a powerful woman. There was no child sexual abuse (although the punishments would constitute physical abuse) and, contrary to cult stereotypes, there was no preparation for the end of the world. Instead, Foxlowe’s intention was almost exactly what it appeared to be from the outside, a commune dedicated to a more natural way of living.

On the surface, Foxlowe appears to be a good place for children, but there are creepy undertones that let you know that not all is what it seems. As the novel progresses, we learn about a punishment system involving nail walks, starvation, and being shut out. In addition, the younger children are pitted against each other for the affection of Freya, the leader. Foxlowe is the story of how the idealistic or utopian dream is warped into a troubling reality.

It was interesting to see how both the children and adults cope when they leave the compound, no longer bound by the rules and superstitions of Foxlowe. This was a fascinating look into how early childhood can affect the rest of your life and influence the kinds of choices people make. These experiences ultimately influence the kind of person you might become.

Favourite Quotes:

“There’s a power in naming”

“I could tell it off by heart even before I knew what the words meant. It’s Freya’s voice, not mine, but I can’t help that: the Time of the Crisis was her story first”

“Teaching Blue our game was another small ending of the world of us, of me and Toby”

“You can’t keep secrets from me, I can open up your heart with a knife and read your secrets there, scribbled inside the flesh”

“I stopped feeling afraid of the Bad, felt only hate, that it had come and destroyed the two people I loved most, apart from Freya, and had poisoned us from the beginning”

“Let me tell you a story, but I can’t say that, I’ve learned; stories on the outside are not freely given, and you can wait to be asked but it takes a long time. Mel has listened to some of mine, but in the same way she listens to the radio: background noise. She won’t pass them on as you should.”

So who would like this book? Those like me who were captured by the synopsis will really enjoy the story. It is so much more than a novel about life in a “cult.” The book has some dark and creepy undertones that will appeal to those who like gothic novels. Finally, I recommend this book to those who are interested in how childhood and memory can shape a person. I think this book would make a good selection for book clubs as it raises many interesting issues that could lead yield much discussion.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Foxlowe

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Does it sound interesting or appealing to you? 

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