The Fig Eater Epub ¹ The Fig ePUB Ì

The Fig Eater Epub ¹ The Fig  ePUB Ì
  • Paperback
  • 311 pages
  • The Fig Eater
  • Jody Shields
  • English
  • 04 September 2017
  • 9780316785266

The Fig Eater➸ [Read] ➳ The Fig Eater By Jody Shields ➽ – Essayreview.co.uk When a young woman's body is discovered in the summer of Vienna, the Inspector's wife is certain the figs found in her stomach during the autopsy are the clue to the identity of the murderer—for th When a young woman's body is discovered in the summer ofVienna, the Inspector's wife is certain the figs found in her stomach during the autopsy The Fig ePUB Ì are the clue to the identity of the murderer—for there are no fresh figs in Vienna at this time of year.


About the Author: Jody Shields

Jody Shields is the former design editor of the New York Times Magazine and a former editor at Vogue, House and Garden, and Details She The Fig ePUB Ì has written several screenplays and has a master's degree in art Her prints are in various collections, including the Museum of Modern Art She lives in New York.


10 thoughts on “The Fig Eater

  1. says:

    The main thing I have to say about this book is: WTF! Let me tell you, there WILL be a SPOILER ALERT so if you have any interest in actually reading this book...stop here.

    I am not the kind of person who likes to give out the ending of books or movies...but, the ending was just so out of left field...its the only reason I have anything to say.

    Basic premise: A woman, Dora, is murdered in turn of the century Austria.

    The history of Austria and the descriptions are good...the writing itself is fine and I was actually intrigued by the book until the last quarter to third of it.

    Ok...so, the Inspector (he's never given a name) is investigating Dora's murder through latest criminology techniques of the day...while his WIFE, who is Hungarian and believes in spells and superstitions, decides to investigate on her own...by listening to him talk of the case, reading his notebook without his knowledge...and through gypsy folklore, tarot card, superstitions, etc.

    You never really have a clear reason why she is investigating...or why she is hanging out with an 18 year old English nanny who is helping her investigate. It's all really rather odd...but, not bad writing at this point.

    The book is called The Fig Eater because a fresh fig is the last thing Dora eats before she is murdered. The entire book the wife Erzsebet and her friend Wally are looking for a fig tree that is not native to Austria. They feel if the find the tree...they will find the killer...yet in the last part of the book when the find the tree...it is never mentioned again as to how she got the fig...who gave it to her or anything...whether it has anything to do with the murder????......it's just dropped like a hot potato!

    Also some of the supporting characters interact with suspects without ever telling the police. Other plot lines are just left dangling as if the author forgot what the hell she was writing about and just left it...though none are as glaring as the friggin fig!

    OK...so, here's the REALLY odd part and the big SPOILER: When the killer is identified by Erzsebet and Wally...they take him to a park where he confesses that he accidentally killed Dora when she began to act crazy and attack and bite him. So, Erzsebet says go on, run ahead of us...we'll give you to the count of ten. And he says so it's my turn then? And they chase after him in the woods and the inspectors wife, Erzsebet, unleashes a rage upon him tearing at him and basically he falls and hits his head and dies... and then she lets out maniacal screams and laughter.

    There is an intimation that she may believe she is a werewolf...or possibly is a werewolf...or they are just effing crazy...or maybe I'm crazy.

    I just know this is the one of the most bizarre books I have ever read...and ONLY because the ending come so far out of left field.

    I actually went online to see if anyone had made sense out of this crap...and found nothing. Whatever enjoyment I did have from this book was totally ruined by the ridiculous ending.

    I almost want someone to read this just so they can tell me if I've gone insane.

  2. says:

    I don't know what to give this book.

    I loved reading it. I read it in a couple days, during my commute, stayed up late, because I wanted to see how it would all work out.

    UNFORTUNATELY I can totally see why people are unhappy.

    SPOILERS, so don't read further if you don't want it spoiled.

    Here are some of the INSANE number of questions you are left with at the end of the book, in no particular order.

    1. WHO TOOK A CRAP BY DORA'S BODY?
    2. How did Dora come in possession of the fig she ate?
    3. Who thought it was a good idea to title the book after a red herring, even though the fact that it is a red herring is never discussed in the book?
    4. How did the Inspector and his wife meet and come to marry?
    5. Are we to understand that the Inspector and his wife love each other? Don't love each other? Are falling out of love? What's the deal?
    6. Why are Erzsebet and Wally friends? How did they meet?
    7. Are we really, amid all the discussions about lady parts, sex, masturbation, and hysteria, supposed to believe that Wally's OBSESSION with Erzsebet is due to the loss of her mother (if you missed that, it's only mentioned once, at the end of the book) and not female attraction?
    8. WHO TOOK A CRAP BY DORA'S BODY?
    9. Was Dora really mad at Frau Zellinka for bonking her dad, even though SHE was bonking Frau Zellinka's husband? Or is their whole fight about that a lie?
    10. Did Dora's father molest or rape her, as is kinda sorta maybe hinted at?
    11. Either way, shouldn't basically everyone in this sex circle have syphillis?
    12. Did Otto actually have TB? Did he contract it after being surrounded by everyone with TB?
    13. Why was it never discussed why Erzsebet doesn't have children, even though old methods of abortion are mentioned, maternal behavior is called into question, and there's that confusing scene where she's yelling about Otto being her son?
    14. Are we really to believe Zellinka's confession? He said she attacked him and he couldn't fight her off (huh?) and then he pushed her off and she died (but she was strangled?). So . . . is he lying? If not, he's a wealthy and supposedly intelligent man, why didn't he cover up her death?
    15. WHO TOOK A CRAP BY DORA'S BODY?
    16. Why does someone say that Rosza does abortions (a BIG deal) and then this is never confirmed, denied, or discussed again?
    17. Did Dora's mother really not know anything that was going on? Why did she disappear?
    18. Who cut off Dora's thumb and hid it in Josef's room? Was it actually Josef? Why would he want a talisman to allow him to move silently through the house without waking anyone? Doesn't it make MORE sense that one of the people carrying on an affair would want that? How would he even find her body to do this if he wasn't involved in her death?
    19. Why was Dora's cloak hidden in a tree?
    20. How is a man who is essentially rotting away from syphillis carrying on so many affairs? At that stage, wouldn't it be too painful?
    21. Why did Wally dress as a man to go to that wax museum thing to look at vaginas?
    22. WEREWOLVES?! When I read the book, I thought Erzsebet was dying, especially since Wally says her behavior is like a dying person. It took reading other reviews on here for me to realize that she totally thinks she turns into a werewolf. But is that REALLY the best ending for this story?
    23. How in the WORLD does weak, naive little Wally go along with the whole werewolf hunt and murder thing?

    The characters are written like they're the characters of a screenplay writer, like the author expects that a visual element will fill in the gaps of physical description and mental dialogue that she doesn't include.

    Due to the significant number of red herrings, but the author never discussing the red herrings AS being red herrings, it feels as though the author spent a long time writing the book, forgot what she was writing, and never reread it to make sure she tied everything together. Because at the end of the day, she tied nothing together.

    I liked her writing style 95% of the time, but especially towards the end, the writing jumped around so much that I got confused. It also seemed at times like the author was writing in favor of style and atmosphere rather than actual conveyance of information. Strings of vague descriptions and verbs (typically during the few action-heavy moments) left me thoroughly confused about what was happening --ESPECIALLY since no one was a reliable narrator, because people were just wrong all the time about everything.

    Despite all this, I still enjoyed the book. How do you enjoy a book that you're so critical and annoyed about? I think if the novel had been titled differently (maybe Fiakers and Friends since that's the most mentioned thing in the book), had not been pitched as a murder mystery or having ANYTHING to do with Freud or psychology (it's more about culture and superstition vs. logic than actually about sex and psychology), and if the author had EITHER addressed why there are so many red herrings OR tied things up better . . .

    I don't know. I'm just confused that at the end of the day, we're not told who pooped next to the body, we're expected to believe that this REALLY DISTINCT CLUE is not in fact important (since it contradicts the confession we're given by a killer who would not have done this), and apparently someone turns into a werewolf or . . . just I don't know.

    EDIT: Now I'm reading more about Freud's Dora. Does this mean that Zellinka (Zellenka? Don't remember) raped Dora and then murdered her? Why was she meeting him in the garden if their relationship wasn't consensual? Did she tire of their relationship, go there to end it, and he killed her? But the author said she wound of diverging from Freud's Dora and basically only kept the name . . . Also WHO POOPED BY HER BODY?

  3. says:

    Finished The Fig Eater while lingering over a cup of coffee & freshly-baked Gruyère gougères today. Perfect. If you have some decadent food or wine or coffee or fruit or pastry to have with this book, all the better.

    I absolutely loved this book. It is full of spare beauty, of opposites (the rational vs. the emotional; male vs. female; etc...), of art.

    I'm dismayed to see the low ratings this book has received on amazon & Goodreads; I'm guessing many picked up this book thinking it is a traditional or cozy mystery or thriller, when it is really nothing, nothing of the sort (& would definitely not appeal if that is what one is seeking). The Fig Eater is an artistic, atmospheric look at Vienna in 1910, the fledgling study of crime through systematic investigative practices contrasted with the superstitions & emotions involved in crimes, in life. There's a detached, cold air around the characters, the story, but there are bold slashes where superstition or life or art come crashing through -- a frenzy in the icy snows of a Viennese winter. Cunning, folklore, passion, photography, cafés, cigarettes, balls, husbands, wives, gypsies, fire, ice, investigations, insanity, infidelity, watercolors, figs, gardens, medicine, doctors, glints, secrets, superstitions.The mystery is really the least of the story; read it for the poetry, the beauty. Really gorgeous.

  4. says:

    A woman (based on Dora, a patient of Sigmund Freud) is found murdered in a Vienna park and a police inspector and his wife use two very different methods (scientific and intuitive) to race to solve the crime.

    My sister had this book several years ago and I loved the cover and wanted to read it. A few weeks ago I bought my own copy and set to reading it. I noticed that it only had two and a half stars from amazon, but was undaunted-- it was exactly the kind of book that I would like. But it was seriously one of the worst books I've ever read. It was SO boring, painful, in fact, to plug through. I think the main problem was the characterizations. I just didn't care at all about the inspector and his wife. They never even gave the inspector as a name, so it made it hard to feel connected with him. And their relationship? So weird. This was a horrible book, although it has a good cover.

  5. says:

    This book made me very grumpy. You see, it's the first book I've read since my daughter Ava was born 2 months ago. I was really excited to finally have time to read, and I spent a little downtime with The Fig Eater each night. The writing was fine, and the descriptions of early 20th-century Vienna were interesting, but ultimately this turned into a sort of werewolf book (actually, no sort of -- it's a werewolf book), and the final solution to the crime was just not that satisfying. All rather stupid (sorry to sound bitter, but that's the word that angrily pulsed through me after finishing the book) really.

  6. says:

    I've read a number of reviews of this book that say it was disappointing, lacking in style, and that it fell short of its plot goals. I disagree on all accounts. I thought that Jody Shields had a wonderful writing style and that her characters all came together to create a very well rounded cast. The contrasting methods by which the detective and his wife explore the murder of young Dora (the detective through science and fact, the wife through intuition) were perfectly suited to the characters. Their relationship and different personalities allowed them each access to information and points of view they would not have had alone and, ultimately, solved the case of the murder. The inclusion of Bohemian folklore and myth was beautiful and I felt that Sheilds' prose displayed that beauty well.

  7. says:

    Oh, goodness. The cover of this book is gorgeous and the description of the back cover had me itching to read it: Murder? In Vienna? In 1910? Yes, please! What could be better than a mash-up of historical fiction and murder mystery? Unfortunately, my expectations must have been miscalibrated because this book totally missed the mark for me.

    The story follows the Inspector (who remains nameless) as he investigates the death of Dora, a young girl from a well-to-do Viennese family whose throttled body is found dumped in the Volksgarten. The Inspector uses all of the latest investigatory techniques to track down the killer (autopsy, taking shoe impressions, combing through the park and Dora's clothes methodically for forensic clues) but continually hits dead ends. The Inspector's wife, Erszebet, takes an unusual interest in the case and launches her own parallel investigation with the help of Wally, an English nanny with whom she is friends.

    Sounds all well and good, right? Except there were so many things that frustrated me that I don't even know where to begin. Erszebet strongly ascribes to the superstitious beliefs of old and employs them in her investigation to a maddening degree. She regularly steals evidence from her husband (such as the jarred contents of Dora's stomach or his investigation notes) and makes her own watercolors and copies of them for later use. By the time she was lovingly reproducing a photograph of a suspect's disease-ridden penis in purple and blue water colors I was ready to throw this book across the room. Her investigation with Wally seemed downright dangerously meddlesome and I kept expecting them both to be murdered in the middle of the book. Heck, I was ready to do it myself! I think none of this would have been so frustrating if I had any feel for who the characters were, but I didn't. They all seemed like cardboard, their actions and motivations maddeningly nebulous. I had no idea why the Inspector would even have married a woman like Erszebet, or how they could possibly have been in love since they seemingly had nothing in common.

    Another major complaint I had with this book was the pace. Because nothing. ever. happened. As soon as it seemed like the story was about to make a break and I thought, Ok, finally, here we go!...it didn't. It was like Jodi Shields was trying every possible way to stall the progression of her story - to what effect, I'm not sure. This book should have been marketed more as a character study instead of a zippy murder mystery, but even that would have been disingenuous because the characters are so thinly drawn. As for the ending, which others on here have also called out, it was a bit of a WTF moment. To put it mildly.

    The reason I gave it two stars instead of just one is because the writing, though choppy and unusual, still had some very elegant turns of phrase. And this book also oozed atmosphere - thanks in part to the writing style - which is something that many writers struggle with. I just wish that the story were tighter and the characters were real. I really wanted to love this book, but I just couldn't.

    On the plus side, I now know what a fiaker is because its featured on every single page. Along with coffee, cake, and cold looks.

  8. says:

    Disturbing, grotesque, sensual, intelligent, darkly fanciful. Grounded in understanding of the pscyho-socio background of Freud's Vienna and Hungarian folk belief. Shields's writing style is beautifully restrained, leaning towards screenplay. It is more novel than whodunnit. Multitudinous themes are woven into the story: the interplay between superstition and science in the fin-de-siecle, the culture blend of Austria Hungary, of Germanic/Anglo Europe with Slavic, Hungarian and Gypsy Europe, women's suffrage, Freudianism, hysteria and madness, art and the birth of photography, sexual taboo, and more. If you love Vienna, if you love the Victorian era, this may appeal to you, but it is the dark side of Viennese Victoriana and Shields revels in forensic description. Not a book for scones and tea. If you like the Max Liebermann series (which shares a love of Viennese patisserie) or Caleb Carr's work, you may applaud. If you are an Anne Perry fan, you may not. Shield's characters are not lovable, but they are compelling; their relationships are complex, not typically romantic - more Bronte or Du Maurier than Austen (certainly not for readers of cozy mysteries or lighthearted romance). There is constant tension between reason and our perception of the supernatural (note that the supernatural is not treated as reality here, which is an important distinction.) The ending is unusual, not unpredictable, but a bold choice. I read this novel on the heels of House of Silk, The Fig Eater is far the superior work. I would like to see Shield's prints at MOMA. Are they as discomforting and intelligent?

  9. says:

    I think I just figured out the point of this novel. Sadly, I still hate it. But before I dive into the reasons which led me to the miserable one-star rating, I'll tell you what I think Jody Shields was attempting with The Fig Eater.

    After due consideration, I believe this novel might be an homage to System der Kriminalistic, a guidebook for police procedure which dictates the movements and behaviors of the first character to whom we are introduced: the Inspector. Essentially, the Kriminalistic method focuses entirely on physical observation and logic. Cold, clinical, it encourages its students to use only their eyes, never their assumptions. The Inspector has no gut instinct- he has only his documentation of crime scenes and evidence, and his observations of suspects as he interviews them. That sounds like rather a lot, actually, except for the fact that he has no imagination, no desire to string incidents and evidence together to create possible scenarios and motivations. Once, once, when in a remarkably good mood, he asks his assistant to hypothesize what might have happened in a smaller case that pops up as the main investigation is ongoing. While this is an interesting and rather Sherlock Holmesian method, it does not really do for those of us who instinctively piece things together using our imagination and our desire to understand human psychology. Perhaps Shields simply decided she would write a mystery in which we have the cold, hard facts and nothing but the cold, hard facts. Perhaps we, as readers, were intended to feel the entire time as though we are on the outside. Whether intentional or not, it is still very disappointing to read a novel which seems to be actively attempting to keep us from being invested, or even mildly interested. Can the concept even be classified as interesting when it is so completely unsustainable in literature? I strongly believe Shields makes a mistake when she gives us several Sherlocks, including herself as the author, but neglects to give us a Watson.

    For a more detailed analysis of why I disliked this book before I reached the above conclusion, please read on...

    As others have claimed before me, I concede that this is a well-researched book. However, I take issue with the way in which Shields trots her city facts, Austrian vocabulary, Hungarian folklore, and the tiniest, tiniest bit of Freud (a false selling point; Dora is meant to be Freud's Dora, but receives no exposition in that area) across the page in some of the most boring prose I have experienced outside a textbook. It took me three weeks to read 300 pages because I just did not care.

    At the beginning of the novel, it seems as if the Inspector will be the focus. The Inspector, however, is developed only by his relationship to the criminal procedures manual to which he constantly refers, leaving him exhaustingly one-dimensional and utterly boring after the first few chapters. Then Erszébet's narrative picks up, yet it too manages to go nowhere. She was as much a mystery to me on the last page as she was at the beginning of the novel. She should have been the most interesting character, given her devotion to the Hungarian superstitions with which she was raised and which she still honors. There are many, many folkloric and superstitious references introduced to us through Erszébet, but what is (one can only hope intentionally) ironic is that she views these practices as coldly and matter-of-factly as her husband views his procedurals. While this might be realistic, it leaves us with absolutely no atmosphere, which sadly seems to be another failed selling point of this novel. Wally was a pawn to Erszébet, and was written like one for us. Egon was probably the most interesting character, the only one who appeared to feel genuine fear or wonder or experience full cogitation. He is, as one might expect, given very little focus.

    This book has no romance, which is not a condemnation in itself, but it is also a murder mystery set in 1910 Vienna amid the fog and snow. There are Gypsies disinterring bodies and cutting off their thumbs (but was it the Gypsies?). I never figured that out. Oh, wait- that's because Shields finds it unnecessary to explain. We only spent 1/3 of the book on that and the similarly discarded fig avenue. There is also no comfort for the inquiring minds of those intrigued by the poo beside the dead girl's body, or her fatal injuries, which clash decidedly with the murderer's confession. Was that a really awful attempt at an open ending, or something?

    The incorporation of the werewolf element also felt like a half-handed attempt at something exciting or mysterious, one which ended up gratuitously tossed into the plot in a manner which implied that the more perceptive of us readers could determine how exactly they fit in. To me, it appears Vienna was either overrun with werewolves in the early 20th century, or several of the characters had a slight neuroses. This is excluding the instance when the Inspector is taken to the sanatorium to see the guy who is totally unconnected to the plot but is important(?) because he believes himself to be a werewolf.

    The Fig Eater is not a finely-crafted mystery. It hosts a parade of characters who mean diddly-squat, in the end. The ending itself is a train wreck. I am only glad to have finished this novel in that I may now say what I please about it.

  10. says:

    I wish I could give this book a 3 1/2 star rating, but without that option, I'm rounding up to a 4 to make up for the, ahem, misplaced criticism of some of the other reviews.

    Perhaps part of the problem is that the book cover, as one reviewer mentions, is pretty. Therefore, people enter a book—a work of fiction that quite explicitly sets out to re-imagine Freud's most famous case as a murder and investigation—as if they had picked up a pleasure fiction book rather than an extended work of research, metaphor, and intrigue. People seem to miss the point that this is as much an investigation into the setting of Freud's work, which has enormously affected the way that we view the world today in many ways, as it is a fictional whodunnit. The clues in the murder investigation are as much for the reader to decipher as they are for the sleuths in the book; that is, they move beyond clues to become tropes, and some of the symbols move beyond the containment of the story to refer back to Freud's case itself, his methods, and how clashes of cultures and treatment of women in the early 1900s must have affected or been further affected by the way he approached and delivered his work. Symbols and themes, such as the fig, fire, photography, the nose, tarot, and creatures of myth, are used very deliberately to explore questions of perception, morality, sexuality, and identity (both individual and cultural) and even ways of knowing.

    SPOILER ALERT, THIS ¶ (One reviewer points out that the elusive fig tree, the fruit of which Dora ate before she died and doesn't grow naturally in Vienna, is found near the end of the novel, but the author drops it like a hot potato! I think the reviewer is missing the point that that's where the reader was supposed to pick it up. The fig was noticed by the Inspector, who represents a masculine way of seeing the world, but dismissed as tangential evidence. His wife, whose way of seeing is rooted in myth and instinct and who represents the oppressed and mysterious feminine, persistently searches for a fig tree growing in Vienna throughout the book. When she finds the buried tree in the doctor's garden—the doctor representative of Freud and other progressives in the treatment of both mental ailments and women in the early 20th century—yet that is not a clue to Dora's murder, it is left alone. But a little later, the Inspector notes that everyone who knew Dora was guilty. I may be wrong, but I think the author didn't drop it like a hot potato, but speak volumes about the case, the story, the characters and the reader in that choice, and it's no mistake that the book's name is The Fig Eater.)

    The author chose a rich and fertile cultural landscape, as well as a pivotal moment in modern thinking where ghosts of the past still lingered, to set an ingenuous and layered exploration of culture. It would be possible to explore the meta-landscape and interaction with the reader in-depth and make a book of the review itself.

    The difficulties I had with the book had less to do with imposing my own expectations upon fiction and more to do with the limitations of fiction. Many of the writing's strengths reside in the bounds of poetry, film noir and even literary criticism (which, I just realized, is yet another reason choosing Freud was so brilliant). But the strength of those genres impose limitations when applied to fiction. The book is very noire and I loved entering the world of Vienna, 1910, a world inhabited by strong people with private aims and desires who exhibit little warmth, much like the ornate and imposing buildings and the austere climate in much of the book. Some of the language is breathtakingly nuanced and rich in multiple-layered symbolism and poetry, but language that occupies the place between minimalism and breathtaking, unexpected ornament, much like art nouveau, cannot sustain itself or the reader's grasp for the length of a book.

    Overall, I would recommend this book for its novelty (and the film-like way you enter the landscape) and thought-provoking qualities, but make no mistake: It's not a lazy summer read, nor is it one of those difficult-yet-rewarding aspiring classics. It's a work of art in short form, a beautiful and richly provocative illustration (like one of the fin-de-siecle-world posters from that area so prized today), a darkly playful romp through analysis and art. While it explores important themes, it doesn't make any definitive statement, but it does add to the conversation. I have a feeling the book may have been even more interesting and rewarding to research and write than it was to read.

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