The Fox’s Walk
The Fox’s Walk takes the reader to Ireland during the First World War, more specifically before and after the Easter Rising of 1916. Alice Moore, eight years old and sent to her grandmother’s Irish estate, Ballydavid, by her London parents, is the narrator. Narrating both from her eight-year-old self and from her grown-up self, Alice provides a curious perspective, furnishing the reader with an uncanny rendering of what it was like to be a child in a house with two old woman, her grandmother and her great-aunt, both mourning the death of her uncle in the war, living in a land where the English have an uneasy relationship with the Irish, while her grown-up self views the events from a distance that keeps the reader at arm’s length. Although part of the Anglo-Irish Protestant class, Alice never seems especially close to her grandmother and great-aunt, instead preferring the company of those at whom her grandmother turns her nose up such as the dramatic Mrs. Coughlan and the impoverished and possibly psychic Countess Debussy. Indeed, Alice seems more sympathetic to the underdog Irish as we learn that she stayed in Ireland as a school teacher rather than returning to England, although we never hear why.
Alice intersperses her personal narrative with the story of Sir Roger Casement, sympathizer to the Irish nationalists who was executed for treason after the Easter Rising. Although it is gripping history, it has the effect of splitting the book in two, half history lesson, half memoir, and it is difficult to reconcile the halves. Ultimately, I felt as though the grown-up Alice had succeeded in keeping me at a distance, and while I respected her tale, it never moved me.