Katie, a thirties-something estate agent, loses her job and with it, her sense of purpose. Trapped in indecision and depression, she agrees to take on a project for her husband’s cousin: to resurrect a decrepit family farm house for eventual sale. Katie trained as an interior designer, and the break from London life coupled with a chance to flex her creative skills draws her out of her shell and into tentative action.
The farmhouse, naturally enough, is in the country. Despite country holidays as a child, Katie discovers that country life is as confronting and relentlessly demanding as her city existence. She faces the realities of farming and of nature. Animals are assets if they can be used for economic gain, and native wildlife such as foxes and rabbits are vermin which can be slaughtered at will.
Then, just as she rediscovers her appreciation of nature, she sees an albino vixen with her two albino cubs. Katie’s desire to protect the creatures, no matter the cost, consumes her.
Much more than a commentary on nature and humanity’s place in it, The Snow Fox Diaries slowly unpicks Katie’s uncertainties and confusions. The tiny (and not so tiny) cracks in her marriage resurface. Katie wants to resist societal expectations on women but she doesn’t dare say so. The loss of employment shattered her confidence. She calls herself ‘middle-aged’, but she’s not yet forty and children are still a possibility. This mindset shows that Katie thinks of herself as useless. Her time has come and gone.
Like the vixen held captive ‘for her own good’, Katie struggles to see a future for herself. Eventually Katie accepts the fundamental impermanence of life, a resolution that is much stronger than an easy happy-ever-after outcome.
Katie can be prickly, and recognises how difficult and whiny she can be. Her husband Ben is perhaps my favourite character. Katie’s city-accustomed eyes confront the impact of humans on the natural world. Secondary characters carry the refrains of the countryfolk giving a more balanced view.
The Snow Fox Diaries doesn’t beat you over the head with an environmental message, but opens up nature to view while telling an intriguing story of a marriage several-years-old. Reflections are inevitable.