When Dashiel s body is found dumped on an East London wasteland, his best friend Danny sets out to find the killer. But Danny finds interaction difficult and must keep his world small in order to survive. By day he lives in an abandoned swimming pool and fixes electrical devices to trade for supplies, but by night, alone, he hunts sharks a reckless search for dangerous men who prey on the vulnerable.
A chance meeting with an American boy selling himself on the streets throws this lonely existence into disarray. Micky is troubled, fragile, and Danny feels a desperate need to protect him from what, he doesn’t know. As Danny discovers more about Micky, he realizes that what Micky needs saving from is the one thing Danny can’t help him fight against.
To save Micky, Danny must risk expanding his world and face something that scares him more than any shark ever could: trusting he will be accepted for who he is. If a freezing winter on the streets, a sadistic doctor, and three thousand miles don’t tear them apart first, that is.
Karen and I interview each other on the gorgeous that is Suki Fleet’s Foxes.
Karen: I’ve seen comments on Foxes that say there is a Beauty and the Beat feeling to it, do you agree with this ?
Fra: I think in the Beauty and the Beast trope, the inner beauty of the presumed beast is a discovery made by others who have only looked at the surface. Although Danny acknowledges that his scarred face is an obstacle and he is so very conscious of it; he also says that in the main he is over it. As readers, straight up – as the books is narrated by Danny and we have access to his thought process from the very beginning, we know that there is an amazing person behind the scars without having to be brought to this “realisation” by a plot device.
From a narrative perspective this is one flawless book: narrated entirely by Danny, the book delivers not only an interrupted view into Danny’s thought process but manages to also convey – by showing the other characters interactions with him – how Dashiel, Donna, Milo, Diana and eventually Micky see him.
Fra Q: Do you think there’s an element of that ?
Karen : I agree that, in the traditional way, there is only a superficial resemblance to Beauty and the Beast, but I’m not totally sure that at the beginning Danny is over it. There is a lovely scene where he see’s himself in a mirror – and doesn’t recognise himself!
Fra: True and that is such a beautiful scene. Although I think there’s an element there which reinforces the dissonance between the way Danny perceives himself and the actual way he looks and his perceived by others.
Fra Q: Karen, London is the mightily sketched background against which Danny and Micky move. It’s a cold, unforgiving, shadow filled London and yet Danny can still marvel at the beauty of it. How do you feel the relationship between the characters and their environment worked in Foxes? And as a Londoner did you recognise it as the same city you work in?
Karen: Actually Danny’s London is very similar to where I work and live, almost like more of an amalgam of both. I work in east London ( not the hipster part) and there are several cafe/ drop in centres nearby that remind me very much of Diana’s place.
But, I actually live on south east London, and while the book was set in South West London the landscape was totally familiar.
I think the rather desolate urban landscape does actually have its own beauty, and that’s what Danny sees. I also felt that Suki Fleet managed to create an outstanding parallel between the habitat and lifestyle of urban foxes and the habitat and lifestyle of humans moving at the margins of their environment – especially in Danny’s case.
When I started to read Foxes for the first time I wasn’t sure about the location of the swimming baths; the second time I did some research, and in my corner of London alone there have been 4 swimming baths that have lain empty for over a year before any work was carried out on them .
FraQ : Tell me more about the foxes’ habitat and Danny’s
Karen: Actually – it is in the way that the boys’ lifestyle mimics foxes behaviour when you think of it: they are mainly nocturnal, they are foragers, they nest (the nesting is a very overt reference). They also have a family of sorts
Fra: They do what they can to stay alive. And the foxes take over Danny’s nest
Karen: Exactly and Danny is on the lookout for predators.
Fra: They are, beautifully and very aptly, a skulk of foxes
Karen Q: Danny has been on the streets for some time, yet he manages to retain an innocence
Why do you think that is ?
Fra: Danny has been isolated and alone for so long I think he has developed his own moral compass. Because of the way he lives he seems to have no other parameters to be beholden to besides the one he makes for himself. He lives on the outskirts of society, looking in – pretty much like you very well said, like an urban fox. His world, the other children, the streets he roams hunting for sharks also do not seem to hold the same “moral/morally wrong” lines that keep together the “normal society” they move parallel to.
“Normal” society with its rules and constructed morality is the reason why Danny and his skulk of foxes are on the streets: I think the world Danny inhabits is for sure stark and harsh and dark but the moral compass points to the true north of community and mutual protection. Stripped of the supposedly moral obligation of society these children see, and seek, in each other the actual core that makes a person fundamentally good.
Danny is comfortable (even in the absolute cancelling manner of the very beginning of the book) in his solitude and both his mental status and his scars give him a protective shell very much akin to the shell he builds for himself in the abandoned pool.
Karen Q: Do you think that it is in some way also tied up with being told that he can’t cope
Fra: Perhaps and yet I found a fortitude in Danny that from the very beginning of the book confirms to me that he is more than capable to “cope”. He is conscious of his situation and does not see it as something to rage against or – until Micky plants that particular seed – he needs to overcome. Very rarely you hear him complain about his own cold, his own hunger, his own vulnerability to falling prey to the sharks that cruise the streets on South West London: his focus is always about the other kids. It’s always they must be cold, hungry, they must find shelter and help.
FraQ: Danny and Micky relationship is one of the sweetest and strongest I have read in a while, what did you like most about it?
Karen: The thing I particularly like about Danny and Micky is actually something that I often hate in other books, and is testament to how much I trust Suki Fleet as a writer: and it is that they actually do complete each other.
I despise the use of broken / damaged to refer to people- so I would say that here we have two young men who have issues, some with mental health and self care who make each other stronger and more self sufficient as opposed to co dependent
Fra: Very true about Danny and Micky making each other self sufficient and also self reliant as individuals rather than as magically “cured” couple.
Karen: Although I was totally invested on their relationship I was also invested in them as individuals they both showed such development, and yes some can be attributed to age, but mainly it was that they both wanted the best for each other.
There was time given to them becoming friends and there was no artificial relationship drama.
No ridiculous jealousy.
There is a scene where Danny gets flowers for Micky, and when he’s asked if Micky will welcome the gesture, he says “ I want to make him smile”.
And when Micky gets the bath for Danny: it’s all about doing something to make someone else happy.
There is an overused trend in romance to make relationships sickly sweet or else pump drama into them from misunderstandings or mistrust therefore one of the things I really enjoyed as well in Foxes was the lack of that.
Karen Q: Angst is a word I’ve read to describe foxes would you describe it as angsty ?
Fra: I think the subject matter and the characters’ circumstance are not easy topics.
Suki addresses homelessness, mental health, eating disorders and isolation in a delicate, respectful and ultimately uplifting manner which never takes away from the fact that these are in fact really serious issues.
There is undoubtedly a level of unresolved tension throughout the novel. Micky is, after all, on the streets – as are all the other children- because of conflict and rejection from his family. Dashiel’s death propels Danny into this shark hunting mode that is as obsessive as it is necessary to bring his own narrative to a different starting point. So yeah angst or better still apprehension which came from an incredibly empathetic account of the conditions the children are in.
But in Danny and Micky’s relationship? I found that no, there was no angst; which was incredibly refreshing knowing that so many similar stories – mostly of the usian variety – rely on the relationship drama to carry the narrative rather than the characters growth and agency.
I mean: they help each other help themselves; and not only Danny and Micky, Donna and Viv (Vicky I must check), Dietrick, and to an extent even Dieter.
There is no unnecessary I will leave him cause it’s best for him. There’s self doubt for sure: Danny knowing he is unable to give Micky what he needs. But it lasts a minute, really, before Danny himself realises that the obstacle here is that he hasn’t even considered that he could.
Micky is conscious of the damage his anorexia is wreaking on his body and mind but I think that in meeting Danny he also gets to a point that he wishes to do something about it not for Danny but for himself – for Dominic.
So difficult, harrowing situations? Yes. A lot of angst? No, not really.
Karen: I have to say I agree, for me often angst seems a manufactured thing, born of forced misunderstandings and poor communication So I think that that Micky and Danny have issues, yes, and they are intense. But they talk!
Fra: Yes! Right? Even when it is difficult for him to talk, Danny writes it down and shows it to Micky to make sure that what he is thinking is understood.
They have to overcome objective obstacles and they do so head on and no holds spared; but I didn’t think it was done with angst more like with a strong and unwavering determination learned the hard way.
And if I were completely honest – angst, of the unfocused variety that usually gets attached to the word “adolescent”, is very much the last thing in these characters minds and lives when their daily life is about survival – finding warmth, sustenance and a safe space to sleep.
Suki Fleet is an incredibly talented author: her work explores the hardness of contemporary life with rare sensibility and heartbreaking delicacy without compromising on realistic portrayal and yet manages to inspire the reader as much as it succeeds in uplifting her characters lives.
Foxes is a fantastic novel, Danny and Micky and the diverse cast of characters around them are set against a vivid portrayal of a harsh London which feels incredibly real.
The characters voices are quiet and powerful and the narrative, while heartbreaking, inspires to reach out and do more to help and support the very many young people in dire need of help.
All in all Suki Fleet remains a strong favourite of ours and we not only highly recommend Foxes but hope that you will find reading all of her novels as rewarding an experience as we have.
Award Winning Author. Prolific Reader (though less prolific than she’d like). Lover of angst, romance and unexpected love stories.
Suki Fleet writes lyrical stories about memorable characters, and believes everyone should have a chance at a happy ending.
Her first novel This is Not a Love Story won Best Gay Debut in the 2014 Rainbow Awards, and was a finalist in the 2015 Lambda Awards.