by Lucy Jones
As one of the largest predators left in Britain, the fox is captivating: a comfortably familiar figure in our country landscapes; an intriguing flash of bright-eyed wildness in our towns.
Yet no other animal attracts such controversy, has provoked more column inches or been so ambiguously woven into our culture over centuries, perceived variously as a beautiful animal, a cunning rogue, a vicious pest and a worthy foe. As well as being the most ubiquitous of wild animals, it is also the least understood.
In Foxes Unearthed Lucy Jones investigates the truth about foxes in a media landscape that often carries complex agendas. Delving into fact, fiction, folklore and her own family history, Lucy travels the length of Britain to find out first-hand why these animals incite such passionate emotions, revealing our rich and complex relationship with one of our most loved – and most vilified – wild animals. This compelling narrative adds much-needed depth to the debate on foxes, asking what our attitudes towards the red fox say about us – and, ultimately, about our relationship with the natural world.
What's this? A book review? That's right, friends - I've actually read something! In fact, slowly but surely, I'm starting to read more.
As I'm taking part in Non-Fiction November this month I'm on a bit of a non-fiction kick, and I couldn't resist nabbing a copy of this new release.
If you're new to non-fiction (and considering I only really started reading it last year I'm certainly no connoisseur) then this would be a great place to start. Not only is it a fairly short book, but it's also very readable and feels as though it's been written from a place of real love; Jones isn't afraid to talk about her own experiences with foxes, from her childhood to the present day, but they're welcome additions to a book that easily could have become a book about statistics. Instead Jones is very fair; she loves foxes, but she doesn't villainise those who don't and she's not afraid to point out the flaws in those who idolise them.
Before this I hadn't read a non-fiction book about wildlife and now I'm keen to read more. If anyone has any recommendations for books on wildlife, preferably ones that include a bit of memoir or folklore or anything that doesn't make them too dry, please let me know!
One thing I must thank this book for is making me realise how much I love foxes. They really are beautiful creatures and I finished this book completely in awe of them; I'm not sure I know of any other creature that can adapt like the fox can. They're real survivors.
In fact this book taught me as much about myself as it did about foxes. Sounds cheesy, I know, but I went into this book expecting to be fascinated by the first chapter about how foxes have been represented in our stories from Aesop to Roald Dahl, which I was, and expecting to be a little bored or out of my depth with the following chapters, which I most certainly wasn't. I've come a long way considering I'd've been hugely intimidated by a book like this two or three years ago.
Not only that, but Foxes Unearthed helped me to see fox-hunting in a different way, too. Personally I am against fox-hunting; I think (literally) hounding a fox and then letting it be torn to pieces is cruel and completely unnecessary, and if foxes are such a threat to farming, which I really don't think they are, it should be up to farmers to both protect their own animals and deal with a fox problem in a humane way.
That being said, I'd never considered the social aspects of hunting before, or the fact that, for many, fox-hunting became something of a coping strategy after the First and Second World Wars. I'd also never considered that we may actually have fox-hunting to thank for the UK still having foxes now, as they've been kept around to hunt and therefore haven't disappeared like our wolves did. I'll never be a pro-hunting person, but I came out of this book a little less likely to think of those who are as dastardly men in red coats, twirling their mustaches.
Foxes Unearthed separates fact from fiction, studying the evolution of foxes in our stories and the cold hard facts, and delves into the worlds of the people who want to hunt them and the people who want to save them, both of which are worlds with pros and cons. Whether you're fascinated by foxes, wild for wildlife or completely new to the realm of non-fiction, I recommend picking up this book!
I've come away from Foxes Unearthed feeling like I've really learned something new, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of Jones's work in future.