Vintage Canada, Toronto, 2011
From my TBR pile.
I’m not sure what drew me to this one, maybe it was the title.
Edal Jones, a Federal Wildlife officer, is falling apart. One too many baby tortoises, packed in egg cartons and crushed in a suitcase. She is home, on leave, exhausted, emotionally spent.
One morning, on a bike ride, she sees a young woman picking up stunned birds from around the glass towers of downtown Toronto. She follows this woman into the Don Valley and discovers a small group of people and animals living in ways very different from those around her.
Fauna is mainly Edal’s story. Named after one of the otters from Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water, she had joined the Federal agency to help wildlife, and finds herself devastated by loss.
Having entered that room full of oddities, her thoughts are inclined to remain there. As Baloo and Bagheera chase through the jungle after their beloved man-cub, her mind’s eye moves over confiscated grizzly rugs and black bear galls, a dried tiger penis, a leopard skin coat. When they make a friend of Kaa, the massive rock python, she can only see wallets and handbags, hideous pointy-toed boots. She manages to focus again during the great battle at the ruined city know as the Cold Lairs, but only until Mowgli tumbles down into the abandoned summer house and lands among the hissing hoods of the Poison-People. Why would someone shove a cobra inside a bottle and pickle it? More to the point, why would anyone spot such an atrocity in a marketplace and long to possess it, let alone attempt to smuggle it home? From page 88.
This novel is also an interesting mix of characters, both human and animal, that live in this city and of the fragile connections between them. It reminds me of how, even in a place of glass and concrete, life can flourish. Something I find I need to remember.
And mixed in with all this is a love of books. Each of the main characters has an important book in their past. There is also the thread of The Jungle Book, read aloud following group dinners, and the effect it has on all who read and hear it. York’s writing is rich in detail, precise, and hard-edged. I found Fauna an interesting, enjoyable book.