The Vixen by Francine Prose (Blog Tour)

The New York City publishing world was an irresistible draw of this historical novel, my first fiction read from Francine Prose. In June 1953, Simon Putnam, newly graduated from Harvard with a degree in folklore studies, is living at home with his parents on Coney Island when the Rosenberg execution appears on television. The whole country has been caught up in this sordid real-life spy drama, but his family has an unusual connection that makes them feel they have more of a stake: Simon’s mother grew up in the same tenement building as Ethel Rosenberg and they attended high school together. The Putnams feel the execution was a disgrace, and Simon’s mother has even created a sort of shrine to Ethel in their apartment.

This puts Simon in a tricky situation when his uncle gets him an editorial job with a publisher whose next project – intended to keep the struggling firm afloat – is the potboiler The Vixen, the Patriot, and the Fanatic, a thinly veiled version of the Rosenberg story that relishes in their demise, turning them into “Soviet sex zombies.” Besides being in poor taste, it’s atrociously written. Can Simon turn it into something more in line with his values without displeasing his boss? Complicating matters is his crush on the book’s author, Anya Partridge, a vamp who wears a fox stole and happens to be confined to a mental asylum.

Nothing is what it seems in a suspenseful narrative inspired by the events of the Red Scare. Characters who initially embody stereotypes end up surpassing expectations. I have trouble putting my finger on why I found this novel underwhelming on the whole. Maybe it was something to do with the far-fetched turns and Simon’s impassive narration. Or one too many references to his sex fantasies about Anya. I don’t see myself seeking out more fiction by Prose. But if you’re a fan of Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell and especially The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, you may well find this a pleasant summer diversion.

My thanks to Harper360 UK and Anne Cater for arranging my proof copy for review.

 

I was delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Vixen. See below for details of where other reviews and features have appeared or will be appearing soon.

23 responses

  1. Ah, shame, because the premise does sound really interesting…

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    1. I feel like this is one that others may love a lot more than I did.

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  2. You’ve saved me from this one. That setting is irresisitible to me, too, but it sounds as if the novel falls flat.

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    1. I found that I enjoyed it less as it went along rather than more.

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  3. Hmm. You won’t be surprised that you haven’t sold this one to me.

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    1. The more far-fetched it got, the less it convinced me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for supporting the blog tour

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re always welcome! I discover lots of great stuff through your blog tours.

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  5. I hated Prose’s Reading Like A Writer and now I know I don’t need to bother with her fiction either!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read that one plus Gluttony and wasn’t hugely impressed with either, and I think I may also have DNFed one of her recent novels, Lovers at the Chameleon Club. This one didn’t live up to its premise for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know this writer and was up for reading this until I got to ‘underwhelming’ as that setting is generally like catnip for me. So one for the library or paperback I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think/hope others will like it more than I did. You’re welcome to my proof copy!

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      1. We’ll have to meet up again sometime. My TBR is just too big at the moment, so I’ll decline on this one.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh no, I really enjoyed this one! Definitely more of a fun summer read than a new favorite, though. I read it in a day, I just found Prose’s style so engrossing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw your 4* for BookBrowse! I’m glad you found it so engaging. It’s great to have those kinds of immersive reading experiences. Sometimes I think there’s not all that much separating a 2.5-3* ‘meh’ response from a more enthusiastic one except for the right mood and/or timing (with a filament of personal connection then being enough to take it to 5*).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Could not agree more!

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  8. I hadn’t heard of this one yet but the setting and set-up sounded intriguing! Maybe one to try if I come across it at the library.

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    1. I feel like I don’t see you read much historical fiction. There would certainly be no harm in trying a library copy and seeing if you like Prose’s style.

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      1. You’re right, I don’t read a lot of it – once in a while.

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  9. I’ve never read Prose, but have a couple in the 746 so will start with those first. I do like the setting for this though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did like the couple of major scenes set on Coney Island and the boozy lunches. I hope you’ll find a winner from Prose.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I”m a fan of Prose, but I’ve fallen a bit behind with her work. For me, she blends entertainment with thoughtfulness in a way that (generally, anyway) suits. Also, I appreciate how she takes on very dark subjects, but somehow seduces readers into that problematic territory. That’s a tough scene, I’d say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Any recommendations for a stellar novel?

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