We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings


I really liked the sound of We All Begin As Strangers, and it was a book I was very much looking forward to reading. The debut novel from Harriet Cummings, it tells the story of an English village and a mysterious man known as ‘the fox’ who lurks there…

We each have a single perspective with which to view the world. Can only really know ourselves and even then there are surprises.

The events in this novel take place in 1984 when a village community is plagued by the appearance of a mysterious character who appears to be slipping in and out of people’s homes. And whilst no one has been physically harmed the locals grow increasingly concerned and confused – the objects that have been moved or taken or left behind. Nothing of value is taken but there are messages left for them to ponder over. Then one day events take a sinister turn when Anna, a quiet young woman from the village, disappears. No-one in the village can understand who would take Anna, so they believe the fox to be responsible. But as the community begins to rally together, scrambling to get to the bottom of the mystery, we realise that there are plenty of secrets to be revealed, and the residents discover that there are individuals close by who may not be all they seem…

This story really intrigued me from the start as I always enjoy novels which look at everyday lives and the secrets that remain hidden behind closed doors. What makes this one all the more fascinating is that it is inspired by true events and Harriet Cummings grew up hearing stories of a man known as the fox who committed terrible crimes in the 1980’s. Inspired by this individual and what may have driven him to act in such a way, she went on to create this character and to explore what made him tick. The crimes committed by the real life fox were more severe in comparison to this fictional version, and I liked that the focus was on the little details and what they wanted to discover. The village was well described and you really get a sense of a small community in which everyone knows everything about one and other – or so they thought. I liked the gradual build up of information as the villagers begin to discover that there is a lot they do not know about their neighbours. I also liked the little details that helped build up a picture of normal everyday life in the village, which also helped create the sense of time and place.

We All Begin As Strangers is an enjoyable novel filled with mystery and intrigue surrounding the lives of ordinary people. It is a story that kept me gripped as I waited to discover the truth, and to uncover the secrets as they creep to the surface.

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