A lost girl and a sprawling map of an unsettling city.
Wren Lithgow has followed her concert pianist mother around the cities of Europe for almost two decades. When they arrive in the mysterious city-state of O, where Wren was conceived during a time of civil war, she resolves to find man she believes is her father.
As the city closes in around her, Wren gives herself over to a place of which she understands nothing, but to which she feels a profound connection, in a story of the watchers and the watched, the ways in which we conceive of home and, finally, the possibility of living on our own terms.
‘Fox Fires, Wyl Menmuir’s moving, mesmerising account of one bewildered girl adrift in a spy-soaked city, is like Kafka dished up by Calvino – that’s to say, it’s unnerving, magical, provoking, and the work of a fertile and powerful imagination.’ —Jim Crace
‘A sumptuously mysterious little masterpiece. I read it late into the night, biting my nails, entirely absorbed in the story of a lost girl in a sinister city.’ —Cathy Rentzenbrink
‘Wyl Menmuir’s gorgeously crafted new novel shows us the things we inevitably find when we’re trying to be lost.’ —Sarah Leipciger
‘This is an utterly absorbing hypnotic novel that is powerfully imagined and very strong on atmosphere. The strange, haunted city of O is the character in the book that dominates the tale. The city is uncanny, menacing and alluring all at once, for the city contains both a sinister, culpable past and an illusory tranquil present. It’s a city filled with unseen, unidentified eyes, that are always watching. The heroine, Wren, seeking for her lost unknown father, tries to read and map the city, an act that may well be her undoing.’ —Patricia Duncker
‘Much as I enjoyed the author’s debut, Booker-longlisted The Many, this tale has a more fluid and accomplished feel. There are similarities in the shadowy undercurrents, and the skill with which threads are woven together. Menmuir has spun a fascinating web that captured this reader’s attention fully. I was left sated while still thinking through issues raised. A piercing, thought-provoking and highly recommended read.’ —Jackie Law
‘I have a particular love for books like this, constructed with such care and meticulousness; each image overlapping and reflecting the ones before and after. Maps, patterns, paths; attempts to see and attempts to blind; revelations and occlusions - all combine to create something rich, original and powerful.’ —Charlotte Hobson, author of “The Vanishing Futurist”
‘Menmuir evokes well an atmosphere of Stasi-like surveillance and paranoia. Although the novel is written in the third person, the pronoun ‘I’ suddenly appears, alarmingly, over halfway through, and we realise that Wren is being watched by a new narrator. The novel makes important points about identity and state bureaucracy — but how beguiling to do so through a haunting fairytale.’ —Alex Peake-Tomkinson, The Spectator
‘Fox Fires is a reading experience that feels like a dream. Author Wyl Menmuir is a wonderful writer and the story carries us along beautifully, but there’s always a sense we’re reaching for something just beyond our grasp, the way Wren is reaching for her father. Fox Fires is the follow up to the extraordinary Booker-longlisted debut novel The Many, a tough act to beat.This is a fascinating and worthy successor, and Menmuir is carving out a delicious niche for himself as the king of multiple layers of meaning.’ —Sheffield Telegraph, Anna Caig
‘Ominous, subtle and beautiful – an intensely resonant trawling of suffering’s deep currents.’ —Michael Marshall Smith
‘Menmuir’s homespun horror has flashes of Daphne du Maurier’s ghost-gothic and John Wyndham’s dystopia while displaying its own individuality and flair … Menmuir steers a steady course; the result is profound and discomfiting, and deserving of multiple readings.’ —Catherine Taylor, The Guardian
‘Paperback of the Week It would be wrong to give away the precise reasons for his protagonist’s state, but as Menmuir’s allegory becomes decipherable, it is increasingly affecting, and the moment when we understand how the bay and its darkly looming ships might be the warped echo of an earlier, shattering scene is one of great power.’ —Stephanie Cross, The Observer
‘He deserves 10 out of 10 when it comes to the creation of atmosphere, and Menmuir can certainly write… A writer to watch.’ —The Independent
‘An intriguing, evocative and formally ambitious debut.’ —Luke Brown, Financial Times
‘If it is possible to describe a book as being rich on spare detail then The Many is it, like a stock reduced to its very essence, and I suspect it was this lack of extraneous waffle and digression in the company of Wyl Menmuir's beguiling writing style that grabbed my attention and kept me wedded to this novel in the days immediately after Port Eliot festival.’ —Dovegreyreader