How to Be Human

Publisher: Viking
From Guardian writer Paula Cocozza, a debut novel of the breakdown of a marriage, suburbian claustrophobia, and a woman's unseemly passion for a fox

You've seen a fox.
     Come face to face in an unexpected place, or at an unexpected moment.
     And he has looked at you, as you have looked at him. As if he has something to tell you, or you have something to tell him.
     But what if it didn't stop there? 

When Mary arrives home from work one day to find a magnificent fox on her lawnhis ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surpriseit is only the beginning.
     He brings gifts (at least, Mary imagines they are gifts), and gradually makes himself at home. And as he listens to Mary, Mary listens back.
     She begins to hear herself for the first time in years. Her bullish ex-boyfriend, still lurking on the fringes of her life, would be appalled. So would the neighbours with a new baby. They only like wildlife that fits with the decor, and they are determined to defend the boundary between the domestic and the wild. But inside Mary a wildness is growing that will not be tamed.
     In this extraordinary debut, the lines between sanity and safety, obsession and delusion blur, in a thrilling exploration of what makes us human.

PRAISE FOR

"Hypnotic...In this suspenseful tale animal and human behaviour begins to meld, even reverse, and who's dangerous and who's endangered is not always clear." - The New York Times

"A singular love story of dominance and betrayal, this novel sets the tone for what will hopefully be a long and strange literary career." —Kirkus (starred)

"This is a compelling, unsettling, and wholly original debut." —Library Journal (Starred)

“A thrilling psychodrama that twists and turns with the residents of a few houses and their adjacent woods….Like the scent of a fox, truth and fact in How to be Human start to evaporate. What is left behind is a pervasive sense that beneath the veneer of civility, something wilder
is always lurking.” —The Economist 

"There is much of [Ali] Smith’s playfulness in Paula Cocozza's enchanting debut...For all its suggestiveness and sensuality, [her] narrative is artfully restrained... In this startling debut, Paula Cocozza seems to be saying that, no matter how lonely the city becomes, through an open window a mass of life is listening back.” —The Times Literary Supplement
 
“Nicely balanced between the serious and the lighter-hearted, Cocozza’s novel is an engaging read.” —The ­­Irish Times
 
“Cocozza pulls off the tricky task of marrying [two different narratives]. The results are unsettling, the writing often vivid and rich.” —The Observer
 
“Cocozza has a wonderful eye for detail, and her descriptions of the natural world are uncanny…One measure of a good book is that it makes you see the world slightly differently, and I know that, having read How to Be Human, I will never look at a fox in quite the same way again.” —The Guardian 

“How to Be Human
is an intriguing and subversive debut, an eerie tale that acts on the reader like a ghost story, charged with the power of the ignored and the suppressed. If we disdain our animal selves, they trail us, shadowing us at dawn and dusk. Paula Cocozza shows us that the line between the wilderness and the city is thin, easily transgressed; the ghost breathing in the thicket is our own wild nature.” —Hilary Mantel

Intriguing and unsettling...the tricky, shifting substance of relationships is so insightfully drawn and constantly surprises.” —Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us

“Paula Cocozza's intense, fox-like powers of observation allow her to stalk the claims of territory and hidden wildness that energise this taut, shimmering novel.” —Richard Beard, author of The Acts of Assassins

“Unsettling, the writing often vivid and rich.” —Observer

“A crafted study in alienation.” —Sunday Times

“Cocozza’s brilliant debut novel [is] a beguiling, highly inventive story about loneliness and finding a place in the world... A disturbing humour underpins Mary’s voice, a mesmerising mix of delusion and discernment... The momentum is achieved through Cocozza’s edgy, atmospheric writing.” —Irish Times

“A writer who is clearly unafraid of launching herself with a bang... Compelling... We are reminded of how close to the surface primal instincts can prowl.” —Daily Telegraph

“In Gulf folk tales, the fox is a trickster. In the West, the mammal, which roams so many city settings, is nearly always described as wily or sly. But in Paula Cocozza’s claustrophobic, unsettling–yet engrossing–debut, the fox is something rather more fantastic.” —The National

“Sharp, thoughtful … exhilarating … the plot slips from urban pastoral to tense thriller.” —Newsweek

“Seeing foxes everywhere after reading this brilliant book.” —Stylist

“One of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read. Beautifully capturing the quiet torment of being a thirty-something at the end of a relationship . . . Sublime, and incredibly moving . . . READ IT and find yourself transfixed.” —Charlotte Philby

“This is fascinating stuff. A tale of obsession which is unsettling, powerful and hypnotic. An original debut.” —Sarah Broadhurst, Lovereading