Franky Furbo by William Wharton - review by Anne Smith

Anne Smith

Greening the Grown-Ups

Franky Furbo


Jonathan Cape 256pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

The first thing to be said about William Wharton’s latest is that you cannot put it down. The second thing is that when you finally do put it down, you wonder if you have been seduced by a master storyteller back into that old magical world of childhood fantasy. Take out the sex at the end and you are left with a very superior children’s novel.

Franky Furbo is a fox with supernatural powers. A freak of nature, born with a brain Einstein could envy, he has quickly learned all the world’s languages and invented his own, the exquisitely subtle, poetic Fox. He can make himself larger or smaller or invisible; he is telepathic and telekinetic, and he can transform himself into a human. He is also a superb cook. In short, he is everything you ever wanted to be between the ages of 7 and 11.

William Wiley is an American soldier in Italy in the Second World War. He is captured by two German soldiers; they are bombed. One of the soldiers is still alive when William, badly injured, recovers consciousness. A fox appears, shrinks them, takes them to his exceedingly comfortable, human-style home in the hollow of a tree, and nurses them back to health. His purpose is to study the human mentality, the motives for war, and to try in return to inculcate them with the super-fox perceptions of the world, and his own way of life.

When they are well and his aims are achieved he transports them back, the German to his home in Bavaria and William to the American troops. The war has just ended. William relates his experiences, is sent to a psychiatric hospital and eventually discharged with a SO per cent disability

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