A review by reader_fictions
The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler


Originally posted here.

Before I started, all I had to go on was this brief description above and a blurb, which describes the novel as 'erotic.' With that in mind, I was really expecting something very different than what I found. I was expecting melodrama, but what I found was a sort of calm, spare prose, lovely and bare. I had no idea what The Bay of Foxes would be like or that I would enjoy it so much.

Personally, I would not describe this novel as erotic. Certainly, sex is a main theme of the novel, but there are no graphic, lurid, romanticized descriptions. I don't think this book is about living vicariously through Dawit's sex life. It's more about the impact sex has upon his life.

However, I suspect that this label may have been used as a way to scare some readers away and perhaps entice others. While the book isn't erotica, I imagine that it would offend a number of readers. This novel touches on issues that are tender for a number of people: torture, prostitution, and gay sex, for example. If you are easily offended, this book probably isn't for you. It's unashamedly dark and creepy.

Part of what intrigued me about this book before I read it was the comparison to Patricia Highsmith, which is on my version of the cover, although not pictured above. I've read a couple of Highsmith's novels and, though she may be incredibly insane, I really think few people can do creepy like she can. Well, Kohler definitely deserves the comparison to Highsmith. If you enjoyed The Talented Mr. Ripley or Strangers on a Train or some other Highsmith novel, you definitely should not miss checking out The Bay of Foxes.

Another awesome thing about The Bay of Foxes is getting to learn a little bit about Ethiopia. My knowledge of African history is extremely limited, so I was able to learn a lot even from the relatively brief references herein. I love seeing this diversity in the characters, as well. Also, look at this beautiful and not whitewashed cover!

The only thing that I was meh about was the ending, which does the thing where this book has actually been written and published by one of the characters thing. I have always hated this trope, mostly because I don't feel like it really adds anything to the story. Every time I read one that does that, I make the DUN DUN sound from Law & Order.

The Bay of Foxes is wonderful literary fiction, especially for readers that love twists and psychological thrillers.