‘Fen’ by Daisy Johnson – The Mating Season


‘Fen’, stories by Daisy Johnson   (2017) – 192 pages

It is all quite amazing, really.  In every town, city, and rural area throughout the world, the young people of a certain age get together, procreate, and start raising families.  However, the process is sometimes quite messy.   In many of the places especially in the West there are bars like the Fox and Hound where the young people congregate thus helping this mating process along.   But these bars can also make the whole operation even messier.

As its name implies, the stories in ‘Fen’ take place in the Fens region of eastern England which was formerly marshland, but they could have taken place anywhere.  These stories about the mating habits of young humans are crude but honest.  Daisy Johnson is not only a primitive; she is a primitive who is fixated on sex which makes her stories fascinating.  She writes from the point of view of the female.  These stories give you a strong sense of the true oddness of human mating.

“We cared only for what they (men) wanted so much it ruined them. Men could pretend they were otherwise, could enact the illusion of self-control, but we knew the running stress of their minds.”

The writing of Daisy Johnson reminded me of that of another great primitive of English literature, Barbara Comyns.  Both of these writers have a seemingly unsophisticated view of what is going on around them, but that simple mindset allows both of them to see things as they truly are.  However Johnson gets more down and dirty than Comyns.

“There is nothing much about him you can see which would do this to you.  Affection, you tell your housemates, is a sort of sickness.  They roll their eyes and tell you they can hear you at night.

That’s not affection, you say.  That’s sex.” 

These stories in ‘Fen’ go beyond simple realism into the supernatural.  In one story three woman roommates lure men to their home, kill them, and then eat them.   In another story a girl transforms herself into an eel.  In another story a dead brother returns home in the form of a fox.

The title ‘Fen’ also reminded me of an excellent novel about this region that I have read, ‘Waterland’ by Graham Swift, not that these two books have much in common otherwise.

One of the stories in ‘Fen’ is called “How to Fuck a Man You Don’t Know”, and if you can handle that title, you probably will like this collection.


Grade:   A


3 responses to this post.

  1. How could anyone not like that as the title to a story?

    Liked by 1 person


  2. […] those curious to know more, reviews here from the Guardian and here from Tony’s Book […]



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