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The fox in the attic (original 1961; edition 1961)

by Richard Arthur Warren Hughes

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319734,767 (3.69)43
Member:varielle
Title:The fox in the attic
Authors:Richard Arthur Warren Hughes
Info:New York, Harper [1962, c1961]
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Fiction

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The Fox in the Attic by Richard Hughes (Author) (1961)

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The inter-war years of Bavaria, 7 May 2016

This review is from: The Fox in the Attic (Paperback)
I read half of this, and sort of came to a halt.
Starting off in the beautifully described Welsh countryside, we meet the 1920s aristocratic family of Augustibne. I really liked this first third of the book - the differences in class, where the death of a 'commoner's' child is deemed so unimportant, and the feeling among the younger generation who just missed what they expected to be their fate in the trenches of WW1. But this is not a romantic easy-read, and as we reach the end of Part 1, Hughes devotes a couple of chapters to political/ philosophical thought on the hows and whys of the cause of the Great War - interesting but bits of which went over my head.

In Part 2, Augustine goes to stay in Bavaria with his German cousins - and it was towards the end of this section that I abandoned it. There's a lot about the inter-war political situation in Germany - the Reds, those wanting Bavarian independence... Knowing little about this era, I couldn't really engage with it.

I liked Hughes' writing but would say parts of this are quite challenging.
2 vote starbox | May 7, 2016 |
A personal journey into the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. A novel that shows us rural England and rural Germany - and seems to want to compare the two. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I'm suspending judgment on this for the time being; Hughes said that he only published 'The Human Predicament' in sections because otherwise it might never get published at all. So this is only one episode in a much longer work, kind of like taking the third volume of Proust on its own, except even less complete in itself. After just this book, the Tolstoyan project seems a little heavy handed: private scene with fictional characters over here; public scene with historical characters over here; socio-philosophical reflections on the early twentieth century over here. The book's closing image starts to bring the reflections together with the private, but the Hitler chapters still seem a little formally disconnected. I suspect that this is the sort of thing that gets resolved as the project unfolds, and I'm really looking forward to The Wooden Shepherdess. Too bad he only got those two volumes done.
Large-scale project issues aside, The Fox... has everything you will love about Hughes: the light touch; the fluid prose; the just-difficult-enough-to-be-interesting-but-not-so-difficult-you-need-a-guidebook imagery, symbolism and technique; the understanding that the particular is only of interest when it reflects on the universal and vice versa; the willingness to break modernist and anti-modernist taboos whenever the book will benefit from such a breaking. Great stuff. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
I picked this up in a second hand bookshop, because of the rave reviews on the back cover, with comparisons to Tolstoy etc. So here was apparently one of the great British post war novelists, and I had never heard of him (which is particularily serious, me having a degree in English Lit and all). So, what is the fuss all about?

I can see where the rave reviews come from. It is a brave attempt to recreate a pivotal era in the 20th Century, when the war was over but Fascism hadn't yet begun. A serious look at the world of Bertie Wooster, in a sense. The novel has a very wide scope, taking in Britain and Germany, several families, social strata etc. One of the themes is how the same things are interpreted in different ways by diffferent people and how motivations and actions are misunderstood. In this way, it reminded me a bit of Anglo Saxon Attitudes.

Yet, ultimately, it fails to deliver. The set up is very ambitious, and by Book 2 we don't have Chekhov's gun, we have an entiry armoury of Chekhov, and these strands are hardly tied up by the end of the book. Many aspects, such as the whole business of Mitzi are unconvincing. Also, it has Hitler in it. There is an end note of the author, assuring us that everything has been painstakingly researched, yet it remains the least convincing Hitler this side of the Indiana Jones movies.

It does have moments of great beauty, and the fragmented technique of very short chapters (a few pages at most) is very effective. In fact, the opening chapters when the hunters return with the dead girl are breathtaking. ( )
1 vote CharlesFerdinand | Jun 2, 2011 |
My interest in this novel waxed and waned, to use the sort of expression that I imagine would be more common in the 1920s, the setting of this book. Generally I enjoyed the human element but found the background politics difficult to follow and consequently less engaging.

The opening is effective with the shock of what the younger man (subsequently identified as Augustine) is carrying and the remote, inferential style that Hughes uses – ‘here in a sodden tangle of brambles the scent of a fox hung, too heavy today to rise or dissipate’. Often Hughes’ descriptions are similarly evocative like that of treading on fresh snow at Lorienburg – ‘the only sound was the tiny (indeed infinitesimal) shriek of the snow you trod’. On the other hand I found some of the sentence structure a little awkward. This may be a reflection of the gap between the era in which it was written (Hughes began the book in the early fifties) and the present day but word orders like ‘now Walther was finding the suspense unbearable, waiting for the expected news in front of his untouched coffee dumb’ led to some regular rereading.

It was interesting to compare this book published in 1961 about the 1920s with Farrell’s ‘Troubles’ which I have just read, written in 1973 and set in 1919. I felt Hughes’ book was immersed in its era, that is, it didn’t have the ironic perspective that Farrell often had, through his style, when he looked back on the earlier times. I guess this is because in many ways Hughes is writing an autobiography here and is aiming to examine, understand and explain what it was like – such as in the chapters he devotes to explaining Augustine’s approach to life and tying it to the expectation of going to war and losing his life and then the war suddenly ending.

In the end I found this outside my area of interest. In the personal story Augustine naively falling madly in love with Mitzi was unconvincing while the account of the putsch and Hitler as a third person limited character seemed to me to be odd too. I also found myself unresponsive to the parts where basically Hughes addresses the reader with his views. It is, then, an uneven book, with some effective parts but not a satisfying whole. ( )
  evening | Jul 5, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hughes, RichardAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mantel, HilaryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Only the steady creaking of a flight of swans disturbed the silence, labouring low overhead with outstretched necks towards the sea.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322293, Paperback)

A tale of enormous suspense and growing horror, The Fox in the Attic is the widely acclaimed first part of Richard Hughes's monumental historical fiction, "The Human Predicament." Set in the early 1920s, the book centers on Augustine, a young man from an aristocratic Welsh family who has come of age in the aftermath of World War I. Unjustly suspected of having had a hand in the murder of a young girl, Augustine takes refuge in the remote castle of Bavarian relatives. There his hopeless love for his devout cousin Mitzi blinds him to the hate that will lead to the rise of German fascism. The book reaches a climax with a brilliant description of the Munich putsch and a disturbingly intimate portrait of Adolph Hitler.

The Fox in the Attic, like its no less remarkable sequel The Wooden Shepherdess, offers a richly detailed, Tolstoyan overview of the modern world in upheaval. At once a novel of ideas and an exploration of the dark spaces of the heart, it is a book in which the past returns in all its original uncertainty and strangeness.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:53 -0400)

Augustine is a young man from an aristocratic Welsh family, struggling to make sense of the world after the Great War. The enemy may have been defeated, but when he finds himself implicated in the death of a young girl, he is targeted as the enemy within. Fleeing Britain, Augustine seeks refuge & solace in the remote castle of Bavarian relatives.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 0940322293, 159017531X

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