South of the River by Blake Morrison - review by Gill Hornby

Gill Hornby

Bright Beginings

South of the River


Chatto & Windus 528pp £17.99

The common fox may only have a walk-on part in Blake Morrison's new novel, but it does walk on rather often. The urban, the rural, the fictional, the mythical and the terrifying – the fox in all its different guises is the sniffing, menacing leitmotif of this fictional exploration of the social impact of the Blair years.

The action of South of the River actually takes place south of two rivers: the Thames, of course, in that area to be transformed by a dome, a railway and shedloads of city cash; and the sleepier Waveney, on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, where the deep-set traditions of country life are suddenly under threat. The five main characters are all of varying gender, colour and class, but they are connected by both the social web and their regular brushes with a fox.

In the opening paragraph, set in the early light of that new dawn that was 2 May 1997, Libby – bright, good-looking advertising executive, married to a layabout – watches an overgrown male fox wander proprietorially through her South London garden as she ponders the domestic chaos and professional challenges

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RLF - March