This was a special read. A pretty unusual book. I would say it falls into the genre of magic realism, and I chose it because I wanted to read a book with a more feminist approach, but mainly with a female protagonist. This book definitely fulfilled these demands.
The novel contains three plots, set in different times: the plot of a fox with supernatural powers, who is about to reach her 1000th birthday; the difficult life story of a Chinese woman in the 9th century; and the life of present-day Artemis, Chinese Canadian, history student, and the unsatisfying relations to her peers. These plots intertwine more and more throughout the novel, as do everyday reality and the foxes’ mythical reality. The fox has a tendency to interfere in amorous relationships, and she can take the form of dead women. She plays her games, and eventually she also enters Artemis’ life. Artemis is engaged in several friendships and love affairs, and all end badly. Murder, theft, lying, and betraying, and a lot of sex and awkwardness, everything is featured in this book. The sex happens mainly between women, and generally, the various relationships between women receive a lot of depth and attention. Most of the characters are Asian Canadian, and issues of racism and identity are discussed among them.
This makes, altogether, for an explosive and unusual mix. On top of it, Larissa Lai has an extraordinary writing style. She writes incredibly beautiful, and especially the more mythical sections are very atmospheric and absorbing.
While this has been one of the most interesting reads in a long time, it is still probably not going to become one of my favorite books. This is, however, simply due to my personal preference for books that span larger worlds and have stronger characters. When Fox is a Thousand is a tale, more than anything else, and as such, it is masterfully written.