Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh is necessary, is timely, and is downright gorgeous despite it’s sometimes ugly subject matter.
This is the story of Fee–how his life ended up the way it did, on a beach, deciding to live instead of die.
It is also “a fox story. Of how a fox can be a boy. And so it is also the story of a fire.” The significance of the fox comes from Fee’s heritage–the myths of the shape-shifting fox demon and how that demon returns and speaks through those possessed. Most importantly, it is about how the fox demon turns back into a human being, back into a man.
The significance of fire is that it is how things die; they are set alight and then they extinguish, keeping their secrets:
“Burning hides what burns there. Somewhere deep in him was a memory of light that pierced him from end to end like a spit.”
Mostly, it is a tragic love story. Unrequited love. Burning love. The horrible love of a man for young boys. The wondrous love of a boy for another boy. The unbearable love of a teenager for his teacher. The never-ending love of a boy for his lost sisters.
There is also a love so desperate that it sends its owner underground, beneath the earth into tunnels he builds so that he might hide from the love and bury himself alive: entomb himself within it for to do so would mean his beloved was trapped in that moment with him.
This is a rich, many-layered novel, filled with mythical allusions and using language that is always gorgeous. You will marvel at the beauty of these sentences even when what the author is describing is something you do not want to see.