SHORTLISTED FOR THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE 2018
'In evocative and elegant prose Cocozza delves deep into the psyche of a strange and troubled woman. The reader is invited to share in her intense connection to a fox and will admire the author’s mordantly witty dissection of contemporary manners.' -Sarah Perry, chair of Judges for Desmond Elliott Prize
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 lawn - his ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surprise - it 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. 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.
'An intriguing and subversive debut, charged with the power of the ignored and the suppressed.' HILARY MANTEL
'Enchanting . . . restrained . . . startling.' TLS
'A thrilling psychodrama . . . She brilliantly captures a sense of Hitchcockian, curtain-twitching intensity.' Economist
‘Sharp, thoughtful . . . exhilarating . . . the plot slips from urban pastoral to tense thriller.’ Newsweek
'Cocozza has a wonderful eye for detail, and her descriptions of the natural world are uncanny.' Guardian
'The tricky, shifting substance of relationships is so insightfully drawn and constantly surprises.' Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us
'Taut, shimmering.' Richard Beard, author of The Acts of the Assassins
[A] poignant and playful meditation on loss, love and loneliness. How To Be Human vibrates with originality, poetry and guts and I loved every strange, yet beautiful, page
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.
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, [she] seems to be saying that, no matter how lonely the city becomes, through an open window a mass of life is listening back.
[An] impressive debut
Cocozza has a wonderful eye for detail, and her descriptions of the natural world are uncanny . . . She takes a big risk in narrating some sections from the point of view of the fox, and pulls it off with aplomb.
Unsettling, the writing often vivid and rich.
Hypnotic . . . suspenseful . . . wonderfully sly and assured . . . Readers may come to realize they are on thrillingly unstable ground.
Intriguing and unsettling . . . the tricky, shifting substance of relationships is so insightfully drawn and constantly surprises.
A thrilling psychodrama . . . She brilliantly captures a sense of Hitchcockian, curtain-twitching intensity . . . 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.
Sharp, thoughtful . . . exhilarating . . . the plot slips from urban pastoral to tense thriller.