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The Fox Woman Paperback – February 3, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Western fairy tales, we've got the werewolf, the man who changes into a wolf. But in the East, it's the fox who does the changing, into a man--or, more often, a sensuous, seductive woman. In her skillful debut, Kij Johnson takes this classic Japanese myth (based in large part on a Royall Tyler translation of a particular story) and spins it into a luminous, lyrical tale, a tender and whisper-quiet study of love, desire, joy, and the nature of the soul.

The Fox Woman follows two families, one of foxes and another of humans. The restless Kaya no Yoshifuji fails to receive an appointment in the Emperor's court and, distracted and seemingly unfazed, decides to relocate to a rural estate to pass a pensive winter, accompanied by his wife Shikujo and son Tadamaro. But a young fox named Kitsune and her brother, mother, and grandfather have set up their den in the run-down estate, and soon the fate of both families becomes intertwined; Yoshifuji becomes bewitched by the foxes, and Kitsune in turn falls in love with him, much to the distress of all others involved, especially Shikujo.

Johnson tells her tale in measured, intimate passages, through Kitsune's diary, Yoshifuji's notebook, and Shikujo's pillow book. The rich, truthful depiction of the Heian-era setting, punctuated by exchanges of poetry and steeped in emotive descriptions of both the fox and human worlds, establishes a still, meditative, and rewarding pace. With her thoughtful ear, Johnson offers a mature and knowing first effort. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

HAn expansion of Johnson's acclaimed story "Fox Magic," this moving novel is based on a ninth-century Japanese fairy tale. Depressed by his failures in the emperor's court, Kaya no Yoshifuji brings his wife, Shikujo, and his eight-year-old son back to his remote country estate. There Kitsune, a young fox-woman, sees him and falls in love with him. Through the diaries of the three main characters, we see that as Yoshifuji's sadness drives him away from his wife, he finds himself strangely obsessed with the family of foxes in his garden. This obsession terrifies Shikujo, who has disturbing memories of a fox-man who once appeared in her dreams. Later, when Shikujo returns to the capital to try to salvage her son's career in the imperial court, Kitsune and her family use fox-magic to create an idyllic imitation of the human world, into which they lure Yoshifuji. He believes the illusion and marries Kitsune. But in this fairy tale, marriage does not end happily ever after. Kitsune fears that Yoshifuji will someday see that his beautiful human wife is in fact a fox, their house a hole in the ground and their dainty food mice and insects. It is clear that the precarious illusion will soon unravel. A meditation on poetry, ritual and humanity, Johnson's fairy tale is a literate, magical and occasionally grotesque love story. Yoshifuji and Shikujo often communicate with each other through poetry; beautiful haikus and wakas provide intense glimpses into their characters. Steeped in historical detail, Johnson's prose is uncommonly musical; it captures the atmosphere of Japan's old courts while avoiding ostentation. This is only Johnson's first novel, but it establishes her as one of SF's most remarkable stylists. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 Reprint edition (February 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312875592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312875596
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Kij Johnson's fantasy novel, The Fox Woman, she blends Japanese folklore with a style of poetry that is both traditional and clearly her own. The story, one of a nobleman and his family who move to the country, is told in three voices: Yoshifuji (the husband), Shikujo (the wife), and Kitsune (a fox). Making these voices more intimate is the fact that they are from three diaries, making them honest, strong, and beautiful.
When Kaya No Yoshifuji and his family move to the capital, it upsets two sets of lives, those of his family and those of the family of foxes that have been living underneath the unused country house. Kitsune, the fox, looks on these strangers with a sense of longing and wonder, unable to understand their human ways. Soon her obsession reflects in Yoshifuji, who becomes obsessed with the foxes living near his home. As Kitsune's obsession grows, she falls in love with Yoshifuji and seeks to use fox-magic to transform herself into a woman to obtain his love.
Woven into the story is a wonderful collection of poetry. Yoshifuji and his wife trade poems in a custom that is difficult for Kitsune to understand. So it may also be for the readers of fantasy who are not well-versed in reading poetry. Yet, readers should neither ignore nor underestimate these lines. The simple words are beautiful, as the poem that Yoshifuji writes on the surface of a fan his wife left behind: "The spider's web can catch the moonlight, / but cannot keep it."
The poetry is an intricate part of the novel, not only for its beauty but also for its importance within the story. Yet, it is not only the poetry within the novel that keeps the reader entranced, but the poetry of the novel.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most moving and beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure to read. And I'm not alone in saying so: The December 20 Publishers Weekly gives The Fox Woman a starred review and says, "it establishes [Kij Johnson] as one of SF's most remarkable stylists."
The Fox Woman is about love, poetry, and what it means to be human, even if told in part from a magical fox's point of view... or, perhaps, especially so. It is the story of a young fox who falls in love with a man in Eleventh-Century Japan, and then her triumphs and troubles when she desires to become a woman. It is also about a man, spurned from Imperial Court, who must learn what it means to be a man; and his wife, who probably learns the most during the course of the novel.
Johnson's use of language is masterful; her words (though the same ones you and I use) are magic, profoundly moving the reader while evoking a rich and exotic environment.
A must-read! You won't be disappointed. Oh, and the presentation is just gorgeous, too (nice cover, good use of calligraphy) -- a great gift.
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Format: Hardcover
Kij Johnson's The Fox Woman transports you into the heart of Heian Japan, and the hearts of some of the most engaging characters ever written. It tells the story of a man, a woman, and a young fox discovering their intertwined destinies in the real world, and in a magical world of wonderful illusion where a den in the earth can be a lovely country estate, and a fox transfixed by love can be a beautiful woman. The settings are historically accurate and (more important) so real you can reach out and touch them. The prose is exquisite -- there's no better word, and the author's masterful sense of story will immerse you in her world as few writers are able to do. This book will break your heart, and you'll be glad for it, I promise you.
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Format: Paperback
I had given up on reading most things labeled fantasy until a friend recommended to me Kij Johnson's The Fox Woman.

Kij gives us the best of literary fiction without the self-indulgent drivel, and the best of fantasy without inflicting upon us the constant repetition that is the staple of lesser authors.

Set in a fantastical medieval Japan, The Fox Woman tells a tale of self-transformation, of dream-chasing, of love both romantic and unconditional, of falls from grace and redemption, of sacrifice, and above all of human emotion and interaction, on a level that hits us deep in the gut and makes us shout, "Yes! I know that feeling!"

Although a fantasy, few stories are more true or more real than this.
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Format: Hardcover
The Fox Woman is a tale of yearnings, of the heart-rending beauty and sadness of being human, yet not knowing what it may cost, nor what it truly means. All this told from the point of view of a love-struck vixen - the ultimate outsider in Heian Japan (folklore and superstition dictate all foxes are evil). For love, she dons the garment of humanity to woo her love. The tale, though, is told from the diaries of Kitsune - the fox woman of the title - her love Kaya no Yoshifuji and his wife Shikujo. The self-imposed exile Yoshifuji places upon himself and his family is to an old country estate; where he hopes to contemplate the embarassment of not attaining a government position in the capital. A polite enough lie, but in truth he wishes to probe the hole he feels in his life. His wife Shikujo has become a distant clockwork creature who has shielded herself from resentment and loneliness with the ten thousand polite and correct obligations of a wife. She prefers to use this perfection as a weapon rather than the more honest - and embarassing - passions of a lover. Into the illusions and reflections which are imploding Yoshifuji and Shikujo's marriage comes the recently-human fox woman, who in her direct manner wins over the heart of Yoshifuji. The fox-magic she works with her grandfather and the rest of her fox-family makes her a beautiful woman, attended by legions of silent, perfect servants, makes a fox-hole an opulent country manor, complete with content peasants who work the rice fields. The realization Kitsune is as much ensnared by her dreamlike world of eternal autumn as well as Yoshifuji is unexpected. Tragedy looms on the horizon, but I will not reveal much else of the plot. The prose is elegant and beautiful. The method of storytelling - from the diaries of the three protagonists - skillful. I would invite anyone to also become bewitched by the beauty of this fox-tale.
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