‘Mrs Fox’ by Sarah Hall

Nerve and instinct. Her thousand feral programmes. Should she not flee into the borders, kicking away the manmade world?

Like Angela Carter, Hall is a great prose stylist. Unlike Carter, who sometimes seems intoxicated by her own linguistic fireworks, Hall is all about control. She is chasing a different kind of literary kick. While Carter deals in mythic transformations, ‘Mrs Fox’ is something almost anti-mythic. It is weirdly mundane, extraordinarily prosaic in its careful and delicate descriptions and scrupulous account of events. It’s as if this kind of thing happens all the time: the metamorphosis of a woman into a feral creature. Hall commits completely to this fantastic notion, leaving no room for doubt. Reading this, one feels that reality is being stretched, being asked to contain more than it should be capable of. It is an astonishing achievement.

Winner of the BBC National Short Story Prize, 2013. First published in 2014 by Faber as a Kindle single, and collected in Madame Zero, Faber, 2017. Available to read online on the Toast magazine website)

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