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.
About the Author
Richard Hughes (1900-1976) was born in Surrey, England, but his ancestors came from Wales and he considered himself a Welshman. After an early childhood marked by the deaths of two older siblings and his father (his mother then went to work as a magazine journalist), Hughes attended boarding school and, with every expectation of being sent to fight in the First World War, enrolled in the military. Armistice was declared, however, before he could see active service, and Hughes was free to go to Oxford, where he became a star on the university literary scene, with a book of poems in print and a play produced in the West End by the time he graduated in 1922. Hughes’s first novel, A High Wind in Jamaica, came out in 1928 and was a best seller in the United Kingdom and America. In Hazard followed ten years later. Hughes also wrote stories for children and radio plays, but his final major undertaking was the “The Human Predicament”, an ambitious amalgamation of fact and fiction that would track the German and English branches of a single family into the disaster of the Second World War while offering a dramatic depiction of Hitler’s rise to power. The work was planned as a trilogy, but remained incomplete at the time of Hughes’s death. The first volume, The Fox in the Attic, appeared in 1960, to great critical acclaim; volume two, The Wooden Shepherdess, was published in 1973. All of Hughes’s completed novels are available fromNYRB Classics.
Hilary Mantel is the author of many novels, including Beyond Black and Wolf Hall.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's unusual to encounter a book that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. This is one such book. It draws you in so that you don't want to put it down, and when it's done it leaves you with something to ponder.
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.